Gridiron Gang Phil Joanou

Inspirational sports movies are the absolute worst. Usually based on "true events,” they all wind up telling the same fiction: a bunch of misfits (in this case, young offenders in a California detention centre) are thrown together under a talented coach (Dwayne "the Rock” Johnson), who shows them that they can be all they can be. "Insurmountable odds” inevitably rear their heads — this time it’s the urban-hell backgrounds of the players and the lack of faith of the administration that this will have a positive effect on the doomed-to-prison players, but of course they start winning games and self-esteem isn’t far off. I have no idea why certain people place such religious faith in the healing power of throwing around a pigskin, but I must be in the minority. To be sure, the Rock is a commanding presence and sells his cliché "coach of coaches” role, though Xzibit is largely relegated to a silent presence at the margins of his greatness. And director Phil Joanou has a certain amount of style that the meat-and-potatoes genre rarely warrants. But whom are we kidding? Any effort in this production is sadly wasted on a concept that should have been thrown out in the scripting stage and never considered again. Extras include a feature commentary with Joanou and writer Jeff Maguire that’s decent enough but not terribly informative, an okay featurette on the actors’ football training, two puff piece featurettes on Joanou and the Rock, a multi-angle exploration of a game sequence and 16 deleted scenes. (Sony)