LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22: Head coach Dennis Erickson of the Arizona State Sun Devils walks on the field before playing the Boise State Broncos in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium December 22, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
From the Beef 'O' Brady's to the Independence, it's time to review the second film festival of college football's bowl season. Our critic was not impressed. Part One here.
THE BEEF 'O' BRADY'S ST. PETERSBURG BOWL. Rated PG for obscene gestures. Please remember that all movies have alternate purposes. The Matrix, for instance, is both an action/sci-fi movie and a failed proposal to use humans as batteries for supercomputers. (It would be seriously inefficient, which is why the computers have not crushed and enslaved us all yet.) Eastern Promises is a taut Russian mafia thriller, too, but it's also an instructional fitness video for those who want to fight naked in saunas for fitness. Brokeback Mountain? Really an instructional video for aspiring ranchers with a gay subplot.
So when you look back at the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, consider it as a cautionary tale about small procedures, but also as a free public service announcement about the value of good punting and its proper techniques. Does this make for a watchable bowl game? No, not particularly. If the B.O.B. Bowl could be a movie, imagine a film about the Mars rover shot from NASA's perspective, but instead of successfully joysticking the little robot around the Martian surface, someone forgets to carry a one and the whole thing fizzles quietly and without fuss.
Aaron Sorkin could probably make this interesting, but the makers of this drama could not afford him and got Meat Loaf to write it. The story of the game is FIU punting poorly, allowing a blocked kick for an eventual Marshall TD, and then an old guy flicked everyone in the stadium off. Don't see this movie. It should not have been made, since you know that punting is important already.
Grade: One star.
THE SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL. Rated PG-13 For Some Violence. The predictable police action movie plot, but well done. You knew TCU would rebound from a 24-17 deficit, and that the rebellious cop (tatted-up rapscallion Casey Pachall) and the Chief (the portly, gruff, but charming Gary Patterson) would find a way to figure out the mysterious challenges of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. The outcome was inevitable, but was executed with enough drama to keep the viewer reasonably engaged. This wasn't Lethal Weapon 2, mind you, but it wasn't Cop Out, either and contained a masterpiece of a comeback scene to tie the game. (18 plays, 71 yards, and nine plus minutes? That's some seriously deliberate but powerful film there, TCU offense.) Worth a rental on a slow night for sure, but not much past that.
Grade: Two and a half stars.
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. Rated NC-17 For Unspeakable Violence. The Hills Have Eyes of bowl matchups. Like most horror movies, it had all the suspense of an autopsy and half the charm, a series of events involving characters who seemed to care about their fates only slightly less than you did. It started with a 100-yard kickoff return for Boise, then Arizona State wandered into the canyons, and nothing good happens when you go back there with Kellen Moore waiting at the top with a sniper rifle and the defense waiting in the darkest corners. (And of course the Sun Devils "split up to cover the most ground." Fools in horror films always do.)
Please recall that Richard Burton, toward the end of his career, appeared in one of the worst movies ever made, The Exorcist Part II, to make a few bucks. Consider this Dennis Erickson's Exorcist II turn, since like Burton he's a great in his field who lost his way in his later years to bad decisions and the burning need for a paycheck. The most relevant horror film cliche here? Running the wrong way, which Arizona State did to the tune of -11 yards total rushing on the night.
Grade: Two stars. Watch if fond of clinical horror movies devoted to gore without plot development. If not fond of that, then never, ever watch again.
Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl: Rated PG-13 for mild profanity, some brief nudity. Playing against type can go so well. Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love, for instance, was a revelation. Yes, you were waiting for him to burst out in a Cajun Man voice at any moment, but when the curtain came down it was apparent that somewhere beneath that exterior lay the heart of an actor, dammit.
Now, something like Southern Miss and Nevada playing defensive types? Nowhere near as successful. Blame the setting, for one. When we think Hawai'i, we think romps like Honeymoon In Vegas, Blue Hawai'i, or even Forgetting Sarah Marshall. You do not think grim struggle, or a 24-17 final won the Eagles. You don't see Austin Davis failing to complete 50 percent of his passes (18/41 for the day) or failing to eclipse 200 yards (161 yards on the day.) You don't see both teams leaning on their defenses until late in the fourth quarter, especially not in the setting that's produced some points-giddy bowl finishes in the past.
It wasn't necessarily bad, but it felt strange and uncomfortable for everyone involved. (Especially Larry Fedora, who was already thinking about his new big-budget movie deal back on the mainland, and whose offense already seemed to be thinking about next year.)
Grade: Two stars. Remarkable only for playing against type, and not even doing that particularly well.
Advocare100 Independence Bowl. Let us now remember great moments of phoning it in as an actor: George Clooney in Batman and Robin, Ben "Thunderbirds" Kingsley in Thunderbirds, and the University of North Carolina in the 2011 Independence Bowl. (If Advocare100 wishes to take me up on the business opportunity of paying me to properly use their sponsorship name, please contact me via the proper channels. Come with money, because I'm not typing all that.)
There's going through the motions, and there's allowing a middling Mizzou team to pile up a 31-7 lead at the half, and then trying to get back in the game with swing passes and three-yard power runs. What you thought was a methodical attempt at a comeback was actually North Carolina burning clock for Mizzou, which was the height of consideration for all parties concerned, including you, the viewer.
You're off the hook, "Al Pacino-in-everything-since-Heat." North Carolina has taken the crown, and sits 1a. to Arizona State's 1b. for "hapless AND unenthusiastic bowl game cannon fodder."
Grade: Zero stars. Burn the tape, and let's pretend this never happened.