Netflix’s Home Team is based on a true story inspired by the life of NFL coach, Sean Payton, after he gets suspended from his position at the New Orleans Saints owing to the Bountygate scandal. He returns home to reconnect with his ex-wife and 12-year-old son but ends up coaching the latter’s school football team.
Home Team begins with Sean Payton (Kevin James) standing on the sidelines of the Super Bowl XLIV in 2009 as the coach of the New Orlean Saints. The team goes for a final play and wins the championship for the first time ever.
Two years later, the infamous Bountygate scandal — an incident in which members of the New Orleans Saints were accused of handing out bonuses to their players for injuring opposition players — comes to light and Sean is suspended from his position due to the same.
He then decides to drive to Texas to reconnect with his teenage son, Connor (Tait Blum), who he hasn’t seen since he divorced his ex-wife, Beth (Jackie Sandler), when Connor was just a baby.
Once back, he is met with resentment from Connor but is welcomed by Beth and her new husband, Jamie (Rob Schneider). In order to spend more time with his son, Sean visits him during a football game and observes the abysmal condition the local team is in.
Later he speaks to the current coach, Troy Lambert (Taylor Lautner) and his old assistant Mitch Bizone (Gary Valentine), and gets to know that the team, called the Argyle Warriors, has been losing without scoring a single goal so far in the season.
After a few more miserable displays and failed attempts to spend time with Connor, Sean takes up Troy’s offer to become a part of the team’s coaching staff to try and turn the Warriors’ season around.
Considering Home Team is a light-hearted comedy, there aren’t any breakout performances. Kevin James as Sean Payton is the one who carries the whole narrative. He plays a highly fictional version of the real personality but adds a relatable touch to the film.
He’s the only one who has any kind of character development in Home Team — going from a reject coach and failed father to redeeming himself in both departments.
Tait Blum who plays his son Connor is a promising young actor who really holds his own in this one. One of his scenes in which he calls out James’ character for his desperate desire to win over the morale of the team is especially noteworthy.
Taylor Lautner looks drastically different from his Twilight Saga days as Troy Lambert. His character is quite balanced and even though we don’t jump deeply into his life, he is an important conduit for Sean to mend his differences with Connor.
The rest of the supporting cast including Sandler, Schneider, Valentine, and the kids make the most of what they’re given, which is decent considering the tone of Home Team.
Home Team turns out to be a nice watch if you only consider the father-son angle. The scene with the kids are especially entertaining, owing to their childish dumbness blended with a desire to win games.
The film does a good job in acting as a means to make a younger watchers develop an interest in American Football. It isn’t ‘Moneyball’ but considering the target audience, it turns out fair.
Unfortunately, this is where the good ends and the not so good begins. Home Team opens with a disclaimer that it is based on true events but feels far from it. It in no way does justice to the real Sean Payton and his story which it is supposedly inspired from. Scenes including one in which the entire team vomits itself to victory in a game just take away the believability factor.
Home Team’s entire narrative is based on the Bountygate scandal, which is probably one of the most brutal incidents in the NFL, which it brushes off as a minor inconvenience for the lead character.
It acts more like a plot device for Sean to move back home and no one ever addresses it further in detail. Towards the end, Sean returning to the NFL as coach feels unnatural considering his suspension was more about children’s football than reminiscing about what actually happened.
The direction is average, the writing is predictable, and the comedy is barely existent. Rob Schneider’s character is a testament to how silly and vague the film sometimes gets as he feels no different than characters he’s played in other Adam Sandler produced projects like ‘Grown Ups’.
Home Team isn’t something that will blow your mind away or give you any real insight into Sean Payton’s life. However, if you’re looking for a no brainer binge session, this film can be the perfect quick one-time watch.
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