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Heartfelt 'Invincible' a real-life 'Rocky'

By Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly
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(Entertainment Weekly) -- Every so often, Mark Wahlberg gets hold of a role that lets him reconnect with what made him a star. Inevitably, these roles are all about becoming a star: According to the Wahlberg myth, which replays Marky Mark's own transformation from thug rapper to Hollywood idol, he's a not-too-bright, no-frills dude, a trusting boy in a hunk's body, who gets shoved into the limelight -- as a porn star, a rock star, or, in the heartfelt and gratifying new sports movie "Invincible," a football star.

What gives Wahlberg's innocent-roughneck version of Cinderella's rise its peculiar resonance is that even after his characters are famous, they can't quite shake the impostor syndrome: They are ordinary guys, gifted in one special way, trying to believe that they belong in the big arena.

"Invincible", a true-life gridiron "Rocky," casts him as Vince Papale, who in 1976 was a 30-year-old bartender in South Philly when he went in for an open tryout for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The movie is steeped to its beer belly in that '70s Eagles fever, with Vince and his buddies treating the team as an extended family, their mood swings cued to every win and loss. Since the team has been losing for years, they're depressed -- until Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear), a new coach, gets brought in to turn things around.

Wahlberg, with shaggy hair and a pumped bod he wears more convincingly than any actor, plays Vince as a guy who truly doesn't expect to win. That makes his rib-bruising triumph all the more believable and touching.

EW Grade: B+

How to Eat Fried Worms

Reviewed by Gregory Kirschling

Walking into "How to Eat Fried Worms," the adaptation of a 1973 kid-lit classic that I remember enjoying back in grade school -- not as much as Encyclopedia Brown but more than "Hooples on the Highway" -- I had two questions: Why did we have to wait 33 years for the movie, and why did they have to make it now?

To the first point, "Fried Worms' " appeal is right there in its title, only the second-best title of the month (after "Snakes on a Plane") but still maybe the second-best title of all time. They should've filmed it a generation ago. Especially instead of waiting till now, the grody age of "Fear Factor," when it's easy to imagine the movie going overboard on the gross-out stuff. We're lucky they didn't "reimagine" it as "How to Eat Fried Squirrel Sphincters."

Happily, after a cartoon opening-credits sequence that overdoes it on the barf, "Worms" goes light (but not too light) on the gore and the goo. The movie is still about a kid ("Because of Winn-Dixie's" winning Luke Benward) who, strong-armed into a bet at school, has to eat creepy crawlers into the double digits, and once he gets started, the focus is more on boys being funny and weird than invertebrates getting microwaved.

If only writer-director Bob Dolman hadn't added on an unnecessarily rotten bully (Adam Hicks). Aren't squiggly, wiggly worms -- whether prepared with lard, marshmallow sauce, peanut butter, or a blender -- antagonist enough?

EW Grade: B

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