Streaming Review: Home Team
Streaming Review: Home Team
19 April 2022
American Football is a world away for many Australians – but the ups and downs of high school sports are familiar to many of us. So when it comes to the Netflix family film Home Team, where Kevin James stars as a rejected American football coach Sean Payton, there is a lot to love. Especially considering it is based on a true story.
Let’s be clear, just like family sporting classics Remember the Titans and The Mighty Ducks, Home Team follows a distinct redemptive storyline. In this one, a well-off white football coach has to take stock of his own life when his role in the ‘Bountygate scandal’ gets him suspended from his position as head coach for the New Orleans Saints. This occurred in 2012 after Payton and staff members were found to participate in a money pool, rewarding players for injuring other teams’ players.
This film doesn’t go into a huge amount of detail about the saga – instead, it focuses on the home dynamics of a fallen coach. And this is what makes it more relatable. Because Payton, who is already separated from his wife due to the pressure of his career, moves home. And after trying and failing to reconnect with his son Connor, he offers to coach his school football team.
The storyline makes it a safe choice for family or church movie night, but if you care to look deeper, some hidden gems mark it as less cliché than how it appears.
Notably, the tension between Payton and his son is palpable. We watch Connor wrestle with a disorganised attachment, longing for connection and questioning his father’s integrity. His voice is essential in the story, highlighting that Kevin James’ character isn’t a hero. Rather, we observe that the Payton family and a bunch of young teens are gracious, discerning, and exercise clear boundaries as the coach earns their trust.
In this way, secondary characters become the most meaningful force in the film. Jackie Sandler as the remarried ex-wife who practises communicating clearly and healthily with her ex for the sake of their son; Taylor Lautner as the middle school football coach who bravely advocates for his players when he sees Payton benching them in pursuit of the win; and the kids who will go to any lengths to please their coach but who seek unity and equity above their own egos. The supporting cast makes Payton better by challenging him to rise to their level of morality and, in doing so, empower the audience to live with the same integrity and courage.
If you’re looking for a quick, clean family comedy, then Home Team is a good choice. As the title says, it’s the ‘team’ that makes this film noteworthy. And while it doesn’t hold the timelessness of other pee-wee sports films, it still has some good lessons – albeit for middle to upper-class white folks.
Home Team is rated PG for mild coarse language and crude humour. It is streaming now on Netflix.