Plot: Texas State’s football program is back to square one, as thanks to countless rules violations, the team has lost all scholarships and the entire roster from last season, save one player. Coach Gennero (Hector Elizondo) has experience with rebuilding programs after similar collapses, so he is brought in to restore honor to Texas State and field the best possible team. But with no scholarships, star players, or recruiting abilities, this season looks bleak, to be kind. Even after open tryouts yield some promising, if unconventional players, those hopes are dashed when scholastic concerns force most of them to be dropped. Paul Blake (Scott Bakula) was a high school legend at quarterback decades ago, but as he never enrolled at college, he is eligible and serves as the team’s leader. Thanks to a lack of warm bodies, most of the squad will even have to play ironman style, on both sides of the ball. Is there any hope for Texas State or is this season going to be one brutal defeat after another?
Entertainment Value: This is about as well worn as a film premise can be, an eccentric band of athletes going against the odds, but this kind story is a popular one for a reason and Necessary Roughness is a fun watch. The narrative does little to rock the boat or go outside expectations, so it is predictable, but it has a certain rough edged charm and a colorful, eclectic cast. So no, the movie doesn’t deconstruct the genre or subvert viewer expectations, but it does rise above most comedies of this kind. This could be because Necessary Roughness isn’t about a Cinderella rise to greatness, but more about the perseverance and passion to push on, even when nothing is going right and things only seem to get worse. That sounds preachy, but the movie is humor driven and these themes aren’t hammered home, it is just clear that winning is secondary in the narrative here, which is a welcome shift. Of course, if you don’t enjoy underdog, ragtag sports movies, Necessary Roughness isn’t going to convert you into a fan, as it is aimed at that audience and plays to that crowd. But if you like these kind of sports comedies, it is an enjoyable one and the cast is a lot of fun.
As I mentioned several times already, the cast is one of the main reasons this movie works as well as it does, with a colorful, fun ensemble filled with familiar faces given quirky roles. I mean we have Kathy Ireland as a placekicker, Sinbad as a chemistry professor turned linebacker, and Hector Elizondo as a goody two shoes college football coach, just as the appetizers. Scott Bakula has the central role and is capable as the worn down, embittered former athlete who gave up his shot for family obligations. Perhaps not a demanding role, but he brings the weariness the role needs and his usual charm, so his Paul Blake is a competent central focus of the ensemble. Robert Loggia is on deck as a gonzo assistant coach, shouting all of his lines and tearing off his suit and tie during an inspirational speech. The movie also has Rob Schneider play on his popular SNL role of the time, as the team’s nickname obsessed press box announcer. The cast also includes Jason Bateman, Harley Jane Kozak, Fred Dalton Thompson, Duane Davis, and master of the unlikable asshole role, Larry Miller.