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Home Team Has Heart

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

Let me start by saying this: if you don’t follow football and aren’t aware of who Sean Payton is and what the Saints’ “Bountygate” scandal was, this might not be the movie for you. However, if you’re like me, then you might get a kick out of Home Team.

Produced by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions and directed by the Kinnane Brothers, Home Team was released on Netflix on January 28, 2022. Starring Kevin James as former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, the movie follows Payton’s journey from Super Bowl winning coach in 2009 to being suspended from the NFL for the entire 2012 season to helping coach his 12-year old son’s Pop Warner football team.

James plays Payton more subdued than you might expect. Typically known for his physical comedy, James uses facial expressions and tone to great effect in this movie, especially in scenes involving the dopey hotel manager where Payton stays in Argyle, Texas. Time and again, Payton is put in uncomfortable situations. From his ex-wife’s eccentric new husband, played by Rob Schnieder, to overbearing football dads, he is a total fish out of water.

Much of the plot revolves around Payton attempting to reconnect with his son. “Being a head coach in the NFL is like going 100 mile per hour, 365 days of the year,” Payton laments at one point. Because of his demanding job as an NFL head coach, Payton hasn’t always been around. He hopes this suspension will afford him the opportunity he needs to make up for lost time.

Payton’s football knowledge and expertise pay immediate dividends, helping the team turn their season around. The Warriors hadn’t even scored a touchdown before coach Payton arrived. Despite their success, Payton begins to learn that winning doesn’t trump everything. By the end of the movie, Warriors’ coach Sean Payton is doing things Saints’ coach Sean Payton could never imagine.

Taylor Lautner also stars as Troy Lambert, the overwhelmed football coach of the Warriors who enlists Payton’s help. Gary Valentine plays Lambert’s alcoholic and incompetent assistant coach Mitch Bizone. Isaiah Mustafa, he of the incomparable Old Spice commercials, plays Payton’s arch-nemesis, the head coach of the dreaded Porcupines.

There are several cameos, including radio broadcaster Dan Patrick, sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson, former NFL head coach Bill Cowher and even Sean Payton himself. Tracy Wolfson is especially memorable for being so mean! Poor coach Payton. He can’t even lose a Pop Warner game without being criticized on ESPN.

While not a classic, Home Team delivers some memorable moments. The diverse group of kids on the football team stand out especially, like the kicker with painfully low aim or the quarterback who only understands plays in the context of Mexican food (Grande burrito on one!).

Even though football fans are clearly the target audience, those who don’t follow football will still find this movie charming. It is a movie about making amends, recognizing potential and finding peace. Home Team doesn’t try to be more than what it is: a feel-good movie about a dad trying to reconnect with his son.

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