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Film review: Necessary Roughness

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2 1991 12:00 a.m. MDT

There's an easy barometer for movies like "Necessary Roughness": Whether or not they make you laugh.

While that may seem overly simplistic, it's actually the form of measurement that matters most when you're evaluating a comedy.

"Necessary Roughness" has a plot that is paper-thin, characters that are stereotypes and an ending that is yet another variation on "Rocky" (which wasn't original back then).

But in the hands of likable actors who are using a script that fairly bubbles with quips and sight gags, you can forgive an awful lot.

Scott Bakula (TV's "Quantum Leap") stars as the overage college freshman recruited to lead the team, if not to victory, at least to getting out on the field for each game.

It seems fictitious Texas State University is recovering from a football scandal, and new coaches Hector Elizondo and Robert Loggia are determined to regain dignity for the fighting Armadillos.

So, instead of recruiting hulking almost-pros, they call in actual students, hoping for players who can keep their grades up. The result is, to understate, an eccentric group, ranging from a teacher who has a year of remaining eligibility to a track runner who can't catch to a young woman — yes a woman — brought in from the soccer team to kick, etc.

There's even time for romance, as Bakula is smitten with his journalism teacher (In an apparent dig at the media, her Journalism 101 class is presented as the easiest class in the curriculum).

Naturally, there is a barroom brawl and then a grudge match with a rival university. And, of course, everyone learns that it's not whether you win or lose . . . .

OK, this isn't exactly the hard-line satire that made "North Dallas Forty" distinctive. It isn't even "Semi-Tough."

This is "The Longest Yard" — albeit set in a college (At one point there's even a scrimmage with a prison team! And by the way, look for some pro sports cameos among those prisoners).

As for the cast, Elizondo and Loggia play off each other very well, Loggia getting the lion's share of the one-liners. And the team members are endearing, especially Peter Navy Tuiasosopo, as a huge Samoan with a soft heart; Jason Bateman, as a wealthy kid whose father thinks he owns the team; Sinbad, who has charm, but doesn't really seem to be playing a character; and Bakula and Harley Jane Kozak ("Arachophobia"), who make a nice couple.

Less successful is Larry Miller as the unctuous dean out to sabotage the team (a role that parallels rather too strongly the character he plays in the upcoming "Suburban Commando").

But I did like Rob Schneider, as the play-by-play announcer, slipping only briefly into his "Saturday Night Live" character, the guy who sits by the copy machine and greets his colleagues with endless variations on their names.

Some members of the audience may find "Necessary Roughness" a bit too familiar, but if you're just looking for a roughneck good time, here's a picture with more than a few good laughs.

"Necessary Roughness" is rated PG-13 for violence, profanity and nudity in the locker room shower.