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Movie Review

'Comebacks' has a way with clichés

As dumb spoofs go, "The Comebacks" isn't bad. It takes almost every sports movie of the last five years ("Field of Dreams," too) and blends them into a single slapdash comedy. The central cliché in the resulting patchwork is the "washed-up football coach who leads a team of nobodies to victory" plot, which is just a big refrigerator the filmmakers can throw their gags at like magnets. An impressive number of them stick.

Played by the character actor David Koechner, our coach is a doofus with a nifty name - Lambeau Fields! - who, after having been present or responsible for some of sports' most famous disasters (Buckner in '86, Zidane's World Cup head butt), finds himself on the sidelines. But he agrees to take a job coaching football in a Texas podunk. (There's an oil well out in front.)

His crew is ragtag. His methods unorthodox. (The first of his many rousing speeches involves getting off the dean's list: "I want academic probation . . . I want felonies and lawsuits!") The team's kicker is an Indian soccer beauty who punts in her sari. The team mascot - a tubby, mentally challenged black kid - is a joke on that "feel-good" Cuba Gooding Jr. movie "Radio." In "The Comebacks," his name is iPod.

The quarterback (Matthew Lawrence) lives in a trailer with a father who berates his fumbles and works as a Cher impersonator. The star running back (Jackie Long) is a primping stud who also dates coach's delinquent gymnast daughter (Brooke Nevin). There's a love triangle in there somewhere. But she's just looking to get a rise out of daddy

The director is Tom Brady, who should not be confused with his famous namesake. Brady and his screenwriters keep the gags coming - some of them are logical; some, like the grubby-looking Journey tribute, are Dada. For lack of a better term, we're blitzed. Sadly, the movie gives in to the romance and redemption clichés it wants to mock - it might be too sincere. But when it's funny, it's astutely so.

Watching "The Comebacks," you realize not only how many of these inspirational films get cranked out and how bad they are, but how indistinguishable their scenes are from each other. When coach bitterly cancels practice before the Big Game because the team has passed its exams, you can't remember which movie it was from. "Remember the Titans"? "Miracle"? "Gridiron Gang"? "Coach Carter"? "We Are Marshall"? Probably, all of them. But it's funnier here.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. For more on movies, go to boston.com/ae/ movies.

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The Comebacks

Directed by: Tom Brady

Written by: Joey Gutierrez and Ed Yeager

Starring: David Koechner, Matthew Lawrence, Jackie Long, Brooke Nevin, and Carl Weathers

At: Boston Common, Fenway, Boston, and suburbs

Running time: 83 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (Crude sexual material and some drug material)

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