Every Wednesday (or Thursday) Shutdown Corner will take a moment to reflect on a recent or not-so-recent football-related book or movie. This week, it's the 1977 Burt Reynolds comedy, "Semi-Tough."
"Semi-Tough" was this week's selection for a couple of reasons. One, I'd never heard of it before and it's not often mentioned when people discuss football football movies. And two, the cast is intriguing as hell: Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson, Carl Weathers, Brian Dennehy, the third housekeeper from "Diff'rent Strokes," Mary Jo Catlett, and the guy who hosted "Win, Lose or Draw" in the late '80s, Bert Convy. Dick Schaap was thrown in as a bonus surprise, too.
Twenty or thirty minutes into it, I thought we had a winner on our hands. I was ready to start asking people why no one ever mentions this as a classic football comedy. Soon enough, though, two issues arose, both of which had crippling effects.
Issue number one: Nudity.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not the type of moviegoer who needs nudity in order to enjoy a film. But look at these posters, and tell me I don't have a right to expect at least a modicum of nudity in this movie.
It should be a festival of exposed lady parts, right?
Nope. But I'll tell you what we did see. Before the opening credits had even stopped rolling, I had already seen Brian Dennehy's bare hiney, a little bit of full-frontal male nudity, and one of the five hairiest men I've ever seen.
At no point was there any female nudity until the very end, when (spoiler alert) the non-English-speaking kicker spontaneously decides to sexually assault a woman during a brawl at a wedding. Completely weak. Again, I don't need it, but don't mislead me about it, either.
And it's not like there weren't opportunities. Burt Reynolds, as you might expect in a 1977 movie, shares the 'stache with his share of ladies. We never see anything, though. Not even when he gets it on with the housekeeper from "Diff'rent Strokes."
The second issue's actually a bigger one, and really, it's unfair of me to even call it an issue, since I'm seeing this movie about 32 years too late. The major theme -- way more than football -- is to parody a religious cult movement that was going on in the '70s. Kristofferson's character gets caught up in some new-age religion/cult, and it completely dominates the movie. The problem for me is that I'm not of an age where I even know what they're making fun of.
According to Wikipedia, the "B.E.A.T." cult in the movie is based on Werner Erhard and his Erhard Seminars Training, which, from what I can gather, was sort of like the Scientology of the late '70s and early '80s. At the time, it may have been a spot-on satire, but I wouldn't know. I didn't know any of this until I looked it up after watching the movie, so all it did for me was produce a bunch of "What the hell is going on here?" moments.
But that's alright, because I don't think we'd be looking at a masterpiece of a movie even if we took all that stuff out. It does have some laughs that stand up even 32 years later, and I don't care what year it is, Burt Reynolds is always a stud.
The movie's very uneven, though, and sometimes falls into some cringe-worthy jokes and gags it should be better than. The plot's not anything special, either, revolving around the Burt Reynolds character crafting an unnecessarily elaborate plot to railroad his best friend's wedding. I'm certain that a simple "Hey, this is a bad idea" to either of them would have achieved the same effect, and that might have been the preferable approach, considering, you know, that the guy's his best friend. By the end, football is barely even a side plot.
It's not the worst two hours I've ever spent, but unless you're jonesing to see Burt Reynolds in his prime as a beacon of raw masculinity, this doesn't need to be on any must-see list of football movies.