You may be wondering why in the hell would I review this particular movie when the preceding film about a baseball team of lovable losers is SOOOO much better. I was in the market for a Scott Bakula movie for my convention preparation and either the movies were too new, like The Informant!, his role was too small, like in American Beauty, or I never want to see the movie again, like Lord of Illusions. Not that Scott was bad in Lord of Illusions, but because what’s not to like in Necessary Roughness?
After committing a slew of regulatory violations, Texas State University President Purcell (Fred Dalton Thompson) enlists Ed “Straight Arrow” Gennero (Hector Elizondo) to rebuild and coach a new, morally-principled Fightin’ Armadillos football team. After tryouts reveal the slim pickings available from the student body, defensive coach Wally “Rig” Riggendorf (Robert Loggia) recruits 34-year old Paul Blake (Scott Bakula), a promising quarterback who gave it all up years ago to run the family farm. With such a meager squad, Gennero and Rig resort to playing iron-man football and recruiting a university teacher, Andre Krimm (Sinbad), and soccer player, Lucy Draper (Kathy Ireland), to keep the program alive and away from the chopping block of the football-hating Dean Elias (Larry Miller).
I’m going to try and avoid any MAJOR comparisons to that other, more familiar sporting satire; after all, that one’s in a LEAGUE all its own. It’s easy to just say it’s not as good as that other one, but what, specifically, gives Necessary Roughness such a bad rap? As director Stan Dragoti’s last project, Necessary Roughness suffers from plot holes wide enough for Farmer Blake to drive his tractor through. For example, Jarvis Edison (Jason Bateman) is a privileged player who’s coasted through school thanks to his wealthy dad’s fiscal contributions. By the end of the season, Edison is in danger of flunking and being expeditiously ejected from the ‘Dillos, but his teammates rally to help him cram. A great subplot, but it was introduced eighty minutes in and resolved about three minutes later. Those minute markers are probably not exact, but the point is the story contains more subplots than I can remember and the reason I can’t is because they are repeatedly glossed over. A travesty considering the runtime allowed ample time to better address them.
The gaps are no fault of the actors; were it not for their amiable portrayals, Necessary Roughness would hold almost no allure at all. Filmed during Bakula’s stint on Quantum Leap, you almost expect Al to pop up alongside to coach him through the games or help him win the affections of Dr. Carter (Harley Jane Kozak). Larry Miller always plays a sleaze excellently and let’s not forget the assemblage of quirky players doing their quirky things. Aside from Lucy the placekicker, there’s the Samoan ‘runt’ Manumana (Peter Tuiasosopo), the butterfingered Featherstone (Duane Davis), and their key defensive player Samorai (Michael Dolan) among others who offer up minor laughs with their unique skills. The ragtag team even has a scrimmage against Texas State Penitentiary whose ranks are filled with cameos from a number of football greats.
Speaking of football, I know almost nothing about the sport, but I know enough to recognize the game sequences suffer from noticeable technical issues. I think I’ve covered more than enough issues to answer my earlier question, what’s not to like in Necessary Roughness. If you do come across this movie sometime, give the performances a chance, but don’t feel bad if you opt to see what’s playing elsewhere.