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Mark Wahlberg stars as a rookie football player in Invincible.


Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear

Director: Ericson Core

Rating: G

**** (out of five)

Sports pictures are a lot like campus comedies and slasher movies these days: It’s not whether a given film includes all the mandated story points (Dream deferred! Dream out of reach! Dream suddenly within grasp! Hey, dreamer, that cute girl likes you!), but whether it’ll do it with style. And in telling the story of Vincent Papale, a substitute teacher and part-time bartender from South Philadelphia who in 1976 became the oldest rookie on his beloved Philadelphia Eagles, Invincible doesn’t punt.

Despite director Ericson Core’s heavy hand with the heroic-myth brush — or possibly because of it— Invincible is a pretty decent movie, all things considered. Like Remember the Titans and Miracle and Glory Road and The Rookie, it’s another of Disney’s middle-aged sports movies, where history is made by men who dared to dream, and all that jazz, but a story well told is a story well told.

Mark Wahlberg, who played a version of this story in Rock Star, makes a pretty good Papale; he’s convincingly athletic, his regular-guy simmer suits Papale’s modesty, and he strikes some real sparks opposite Elizabeth Banks, who makes the absolute most of her role as an appealing barmaid with a tragic flaw. (She’s a Giants fan.)

But the relationship that really drives the picture is the odd chemistry between Papale and Eagles coach Dick Vermeil, who’s played with marvelous insecurity by Greg Kinnear.

Wahlberg and Kinnear don’t share more than ten minutes of screen time, but their intersections make the movie feel human and empathetic — in other words, a lot more satisfying than just another sports picture.