The hit-to-miss ratio is deplorably pathetic during the fusillade of gags attempted in “The Comebacks,” an exceptionally lame genre parody that plumbs depths of ineptitude heretofore charted only by the marginally less abysmal “Date Movie.” Whereas the latter foundered while frantically mocking romantic comedies, this new fiasco repeatedly shoots itself in the foot while aiming at easy targets offered by inspirational sports dramas. Hard-sell advertising may rouse interest, but a quick trip to the minors (i.e., latenight cable and homevid outlets) is expected.
Much like the many scattershot satires that have taken flight since “Airplane!” (and, more recently, “Scary Movie”), “Comebacks” offers a barrage of allusions to dozens of serious (and one or two not-so-serious) pics, emphasizing quantity over quality in a headlong rush to amass as many cartoonish japes as a tissue-thin plot can support.
The basic premise: A chronically unsuccessful coach (David Koechner) named Lambeau Fields — get it? — gets one last chance for gridiron glory when he moves his family to Plainfolk, Texas, to coach the under-achieving football team of Heartland State U.
Upon this rickety framework, helmer Tom Brady (the director, not the NFL quarterback) and a bush-league team of scriptwriters pile jokey references to “Rudy,” “Remember the Titans,” “Miracle,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Stick It” (the coach’s oversexed daughter, played by Brooke Nevin, is a limber gymnast), “Radio,” “Rocky,” “Invincible,” “Varsity Blues” and on and on and on. There’s also a regrettably extended riff on “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” suggesting that when almost all else fails — as happens here — desperate filmmakers are not above trying to spoof an infinitely better spoof.
All of which would be forgivable if “The Comebacks” were at least occasionally comical. Time and again, however, aud is forced to endure a painfully obvious setup, followed by a thuddingly unfunny payoff. Punchlines aren’t merely telegraphed, they’re sent by Pony Express. Trouble is, they’re not worth the wait.
How low is the level of humor? The climactic football game is — are you ready for this? Are you sitting down? — the Toilet Bowl.
As Coach Fields, Koechner sets the bar for acting here with an overstated, obvious performance that would have to be dialed down a notch or two to qualify as caricature. Among the few standouts in the supporting cast: Matthew Lawrence, relatively restrained as a troubled quarterback, and Carl Weathers, deftly burlesquing himself as a rival coach. Tech values are, to put it diplomatically, worthy of the project as a whole.