“You have your team, your buddies, your football, your Super Bowl! Well hell, I went out and had sex! It felt good!” Over-the-hill cornerback Dave Walecki’s wife sure gives an offbeat pre game pep talk to her understandably confused husband in this understandably hilarious TV-movie that constantly talks about the Super Bowl but delivers the ultimate shock ending by finishing up right in the middle of the National Anthem before a single down of the Big Game can be played!
Conventional wisdom dictates that we savage such a bait and switch tactic, but in the case of Superdome, everything that leads up to the Super Bowl is so amazing, if they actually showed the game, it would be a let down just like the real thing is nine times out of ten. (Besides with the real Super Bowl being played a week after this movie was originally broadcast in 1978, who would want to sit through two fake teams, the Cougars and the Rangers, made up of familiar TV actors and washed up ex-athletes pretending to tackle each other?)
The film itself is itself a trick play as it seems to want to pretend to be a 1970s disaster movie with its mix of TV personalities (David Janssen, Donna Mills, Ken Howard, Tom Selleck), slumming movie legends (Jane Wyatt, Van Johnson), and multiple storylines with characters battling their own crisis against the backdrop of an overarching event that is beset by danger.
However, some characters aren’t ever threatened by the main crisis and even the public at large isn’t at any real risk since the movie is really just a sluggish thriller weighed down by the extra storylines (I dare you to care about the one involving the old guy and his daughter trying to sign the quarterback to an endorsement deal).
Throw in the quasi-documentary location shooting and hyperbole voiceover that periodically informs the audience how jacked New Orleans is for the Super Bowl and you’ll wonder if you accidentally started popping those pills that Walecki is constantly begging the the team trainer for !
Janssen plays Mike, possibly the worst general manager in the history of general managers as within minutes of arriving in New Orleans the week before the Super Bowl with his team, he immediately embarks on a love affair with a reporter who preaches a “do whatever feels good” philosophy and that there’s no such thing as right and wrong.
Never mind that the team owner just told him she is selling the team and this is the only chance they have to win the big one for her husband. Donna Mills as Lainie is rocking Farrah Fawcett hair so who cares if she admits she’s not only been following you and even worse, has no press credentials!
What’s so awesome about Mike though isn’t how he completely abdicates anything remotely resembling making sure the organization is ready for the game, it’s that he does so while people associated with his team are being murdered! NFL security guy shot and stewardess who screwed the star quarterback smothered? Mike’s response? He doesn’t like getting phone calls from his secretary because he doesn’t want to think who’s going to be killed next!
It’s only when his team trainer is gunned down that he takes charge and demands to hear the recordings of the illegal wiretaps that the dead security officer made. (It’s best not think about why it took a football executive to make that decision instead of law enforcement.)
The murders are connected to a former player’s efforts to rig the game on behalf of the mob. While a case can be made for murdering the security guy if he was close to the truth, it made no sense to murder the stewardess. And while the trainer was apparently the inside man who was going to help fix the game and he chickened out, killing him would only seem to draw closer scrutiny to what was going on (and that’s in fact what did happen).
With $10 million riding on the fix, it seems like mafia malpractice to think a former football could carry this off and the clumsy attempt to spike his drink and sabotage the team whirlpool to kill the quarterback only proves that point. (And would the game really have been played as scheduled if the quarterback was killed an hour before the game?)
Admittedly, the film is slow to get going, but after the first thirty minutes, it becomes routinely funny enough to sustain your interest due to the mild disbelief you experience while watching. The scenes with the Waleckis arguing over her having a one night stand while he’s worried about the Super Bowl and then the scenes of them making up and him admitting he’s scared of life after football and she telling him he’ll always be her hero (even when she’s getting boned by other dudes?) are hilarious and feel like something you might have seen that year on an episode of Soap.
Janssen is the best part, consistently surly and expressionless, so much so that when the killer is revealed, it’s totally believable that he has almost no reaction. The blase attitude his character has to everything that’s transpiring is perfectly encapsulated when he’s talking to a player, Hennerson, who’s in jail after being framed for murdering the stewardess. He tells Hennerson he’ll think of something but if worse comes to worse he’ll just trade him to Tampa and no one will ever hear from him again. Eat it Buccanees! You suck! Oh and good luck in jail, Hennerson.
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