‘Home Team’ Review: Fumblecore

Last week, the N.F.L. head coach Sean Payton — the most successful coach in the New Orleans Saints’ franchise history — both announced his retirement and, for the extra point, had a cameo in a slapstick family flick about the time when the league suspended Payton for his role in a bounty program that gave cash bonuses to players who made opponents leave the field on a stretcher.

“Home Team,” directed by the filmmaking brothers Charles and Daniel Kinnane, plays Payton’s punishment as a sincere tragedy. The comic actor Kevin James, as Payton, stares at his sunken eyes in a mirror. Violins swell. There’s an inspirational tickling of piano. Cut to the cornfields of Argyle, Texas, among which Payton will seek redemption by leading his estranged 12-year-old son’s (Tait Blum) ragtag peewee team to a championship.

This actually happened, more or less. But “Home Team” is a product of Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, so the facts have been rejiggered by the screenwriters Chris Titone and Keith Blum to fit the Sandman’s formula: Our hero is a seething screw-up, and everyone else is even worse. It’s yet another comedy of indignities — sorry, make that inanities. Payton’s players puke on the field, his hotel clerk (Jared Sandler) steals all the bagels at the breakfast buffet and his moronic assistant (Gary Valentine) passes out drunk on the bus. Blondes are dumb. Fat people love pizza. And, in a fascinatingly meanspirited subplot that merits its own behind-the-scenes saga, Payton’s ex-wife (Jackie Sandler) has married a loser (Rob Schneider) who eats vegan ice cream, does yoga to get in touch with his feelings and whines that football teaches the wrong lessons about “violence and conflict resolution.” Hey, hippie! A grown man showing emotion is a 15-yard penalty.

Home Team
Rated PG for kiddie cussing and quasi-comic alcoholism. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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