Backfield in Motion [movie review]


My Score: 70

Remember back when Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold were married?  No?  Well then, you’re younger than me and/or have a fuller life, so good for you!  Anyway, they did a made for TV movie together back in 1991 called Backfield in Motion that is, for some crazy reason, available on DVD.  And we watched it.

Let’s take a quick at the title:  Backfield in Motion.  I have never heard anyone refer to illegal motion as backfield in motion, but then, “illegal motion” isn’t a hilarious witticism you could drop into a movie’s title song starring an actress that has a huge ass, so… yeah, the movie is called Backfield in Motion.  (In case you care, “illegal motion” is defined by an offensive player moving during the snap.  You can move around before the snap, but not during.)

Back in the 80s, it was fairly typical to market a song with your movie and for that song to be written specifically for the movie and to have the same title as the movie itself.  Ideally, it would be performed by a live band at some point during the movie (Better Off Dead is one of my favorites), but as long as it showed up at some point during the film (Ghostbusters) and not just rolling over the credits (like Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves – although the melody kinda hangs around throughout the film, so it’s not too bad), that’s good enough to get your 80s-ish credentials in, and even in the early 90s, this fad was still in full effect.  The “Backfield in Motion” song is highly overused during the third act of this movie, and I have no idea if the screenplay was named after the song or commissioned for the movie, but they were careful to check off this movie title song box, and that should give you a good indication of what brand of inspirational sports movie we’re talking about here.

So is this movie any good?  Yeah, I guess so.  It’s not bad.  You ever see those beer commercials during which they proclaim their beer has ‘drinkability?’  This movie has watchability.  And for both the movie and the beer, it’s easy to say, “Well, I should hope it has drinkability/watchability, because after all, it’s a beer/movie.”  Sadly, we know that’s not always true.  Some beers taste like piss (I know a lot of you out there like Heineken, but frankly, I don’t get it) and some movies suck ass (Suburban Commando).  And if you’re a fan of Big Bang Theory (I’m not) or Roseanne (I was), Johnny Galecki has a significant supporting role, and he’s maybe even younger than he was on Roseanne, so that’s… something.

The plot revolves around Roseanne and Johnny Galecki, who have just moved to this new Northern California town sometime after the seldom mentioned husband/father has died.  (Eventually, you find out he was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver.  Classic 80s style!)  Anyway, the town loves its football (Which is shocking – a small American town where they like football?  What genius screen writer came up with such a concept?!?), and little Johnny plays football.  When the father/son football game comes up, Roseanne lobbies to change the game to a mother/son game, and although the town is portrayed as being entirely inhabited by a bunch of crazy conservatives, they quickly compromise with Roseanne, saying that if she can get enough mothers to play, they can have the game.  Anyway, team building, romance and barriers are broken throughout the rest of the film and ultimately, all of the characters behave exactly as you’d expect and everything unfolds just as you’d have predicted.  Except those weird adult male cheerleaders.  Where did they come from?  Why are they in drag?  Are they the dads?  I have no idea.  And why do they get so much coverage?  Oh right, it’s an 80s movie – men in drag are HILARIOUS!  Besides those dudes dancing around, my favorite part of the movie comes just before the football game starts…  I guess the person who was supposed to sing the National Anthem didn’t show, and they need a volunteer, and everyone looks at Roseanne, who looks right into the camera and says, “Me?  Sing the National Anthem?  I don’t think so.”  Poetry.  (I’m surprised she agreed to drop that joke in – the whole National Anthem incident almost got her show cancelled.)  Anyway, then they cut to commercial.  No, their aren’t any actual commercials on the DVD, but they left all the breaks and fades to black.  Thanks for taking the time to edit the movie properly, assholes!

As far as I know, this movie is only available on DVD, and I don’t know if you really need to buy it unless you love Roseanne, Tom Arnold, Johnny Galecki, made for TV movies or cheesy 80s inspirational sports movies, but if any of that lights your fire, have it.

I couldn’t find a trailer for the movie, so here’s the song, “Backfield in Motion,” which is by the duo Mel and Tim.  The song was a hit in 1969, so apparently, it was not commissioned for the movie.  I now know way too much about the movie and the song.

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on July 11, 2012, in movie review and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. marshalbazaine

    One would have to be desperate to watch ANY movie with Roseanne Barr, and with her fat butt, I don’t even want to think of the implications of the film’s title. BTW, I grew up in the 1960’s, and illegal motion WAS commonly called a “backfield in motion” penalty. Back then, of course, refs weren’t wired for sound, so we only heard that term from the announcers.

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