"Home Team" stars Kevin James, Taylor Lautner, Rob Schneider, Jackie Sandler, and Tait Blum. Released on Netflix on January 28, 2022, the film is about a head coach who coaches his son's football team.
The film was directed by Charles Kinnane and Daniel Kinnane, both known for directing the mini-series "Sound Guy". When your team is in a rut, there's only one person to call to turn things around: Kevin James. This year's football season is coming to a close, but that hasn't stopped Netflix from releasing a movie relating to the sport, let alone a film produced by Adam Sandler. This is another movie that I didn't realize until I spotted its poster and saw the people involved with it, mainly James and Sandler. The films made by these two tend to be hit-and-miss depending on people's tastes, including those made for the streaming service. Some proved to be tolerable for their audiences, while others tend to be either forgettable or extremely irredeemable or ridiculously crude or all of the above. This film happens to have the elements we usually see in a Happy Madison project, but for kids, which means it can go in either direction depending on the execution. Was the movie able to score some touchdowns for its audience, or was it another misfire that belongs in the Happy Madison trash? Let's find out.
The film centers on Sean Payton (James), a head coach who led the New Orleans Saints to win Super Bowl XLIV. Three years later, the NFL suspended Payton for one year due to his involvement in the Bountygate scandal. He returns to his hometown to reconnect with his 12-year-old son Connor (Blum), who's leading his Pop Warner football team. The problem is that Connor's team sucks at playing football. This led Payton to volunteer as the team's offensive coordinator in an attempt to earn back Connor's trust. The film is based on real-life events involving Payton's life during his one-year suspension, mainly his relationship with his son. It's an interesting change of pace for the Happy Madison crew since they're mostly known for producing screwball comedies with gross-out gags and wacky scenarios. Those elements are still present in "Home Team", but they're toned down in favor of a kid-friendly underdog story. What seemed to be a winning touchdown and a considerable turnaround for Sandler's production company sadly turned out to be another disappointing loss. While the film's heart was in the right place regarding its effort and messages, it wasted its promising potential in its real-life scenario and charm on a formulaic story that mindlessly followed every trope in the genre playbook. Not only that, but it also lacked the sense of fun and energy that made the other kid-centered sports comedies endearing, like "The Mighty Ducks", especially for the characters. The film also saw the Kinnanes struggling to find the balance between inspirational drama and Sandler's comedy style. As a result, it became an underwhelming and uncanny game that's neither inspiring, entertaining, nor funny. The filmmaking duo had the right idea of presenting the story in a family-friendly manner, but their execution just didn't click for me. One of the few elements that managed to score some big plays was the cast. "Home Team" marks the latest collaboration between Kevin James and the Kinnanes after working on short films together. Based on what I've seen, the partnership seemed to have more silver linings than the screenplay itself. James attempted to put his game face on regarding his dramatic turn as Sean Payton, and the result wasn't all that bad. It's far from award-worthy, but it did prove that Kevin James can do more than just being a target for pratfalls and offensive jokes. I also have a soft spot for Taylor Lautner's presence as Connor's head coach Troy Lambert. The rest of the actors were fine, especially the kid actors who portrayed Connor's football team, even though their character development was unfortunately forgettable. Rob Schneider, on the other hand, not so much. That's not to say that he's awful, but he is still having trouble getting his comical mojo back. While the screenplay didn't score some points in the humor and drama departments, the film compensated slightly with its message. It showcased that it's more important to enjoy the game than to focus on winning, which proves to be respectable for young viewers to learn. It's too bad that the movie didn't have as much football spirit as its subject matter.
Overall, "Home Team" is one of the more tolerable efforts from Happy Madison regarding the direction. Unfortunately, it is also one of the forgettable ones. Despite Kevin James delivering one of his respectable performances of his career, the film wasted its intriguing premise in favor of an underwhelming, by-the-numbers underdog tale that's constantly sacked by its sports formula. With its disappointing storyline, cliched screenplay, mediocre characters, and dull humor, the fact-based comedy fails to capture the trophy and the hearts of many Happy Madison fans. If you're into sports comedies filled with heart and humor, you might not have a problem watching this one. Although, there is a good chance that you might forget about it after a couple of days.