The 1987 NFL players' strike is the obvious inspiration for The Replacements. Needing three more wins to secure a playoff spot, the fictitious Washington Sentinels find their hopes dashed when the athletes walk out. So owner Edward O'Neil (Jack Warden) hires legendary coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman), who has a remarkable collection of names in his address book, to recruit a team of replacements.
The group of misfits is brought together, with the best of the bunch being Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), a former college player who shot down a promising career after a Sugar Bowl failure. Others include Nigel Gruff (Rhys Ifans), a chain-smoking soccer player; religious fanatic Walter Cochran (Troy Winbush); and Earl Wilkinson (Michael Jace), an inmate on a five-week pass. But before they can even get to the game, they face the harassment of the strikers. Although escorted by an army of guards on their first day, for some reason they are left unprotected for subsequent entrances, facilitating many "funny" moments in the stadium parking lot where the scabs are intimidated and Falco's truck is overturned.
Attempting to make the plot more interesting, the writers have the cheerleaders strike too, necessitating auditions of many scantily clad women. In the end, a group of exotic dancers become the new cheering squad, helping distract the opposition with their seductive routines (including an implied lesbian action).
For families, the only positive aspect of the film (if they can find it amid the many profanities, pom-poms, and scenes where "athletes" are smoking or drinking to excess) will be the players' willingness to overlook their obvious differences in favor of working together.
Even with family concerns aside, The Replacements is still a major fumble. Director Howard Deutch's efforts to recreate believable football action results in a monotonous series of choreographed plays set to worn out music snippets like BTO's Takin' Care of Business. Add football commentators John Madden and Pat Summerall's cardboard comments (including a play-by-play of Falco's sexual advances toward the head cheerleader -- "He's gonna score!"), and you'll likely opt to leave this one on the sidelines.