NR | 1h 42m | Documentary, Sports, Biography | Sept. 12, 2023
Based solely on the fact that it is a feature film and not a padded, overlong, multi-episode limited series, “Kelce” deserves points right out of the gate for its brevity. It bucks the recent trend in premium cable programming to keep viewer’s attention by giving them the cinematic equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet at a low-rung steakhouse. These productions will fill you up with empty calories and before you’ve even had a chance to digest it all, you get the gnawing feeling you’ve been shortchanged.
Dr. SeussThe movie opens and closes with National Football League player Jason Kelce (pronounced KEL-see) reading the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” to his two toddler daughters, and it is immediately clear Mr. Kelce has his priorities in order. It is also during the opening salvo where we meet Kylie, Mr. Kelce’s wife who isn’t shy in letting us know she met her future husband on Tinder; not the usual method in which professional athletes meet their respective spouses.
The next scene shows Mr. Kelce dressed as a Mummer, an elaborately dressed reveler who participates in the annual Philadelphia New Year’s Day parade, addressing the throngs of fans celebrating the recent win of the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. Typically, these speeches are reserved for the game MVP, usually a quarterback, running back, or receiver—not an offensive lineman such as Mr. Kelce.
This speaks volumes not only to the Philadelphia sports fan’s blue-collar mindset, but to Mr. Kelce’s undeniable “man of the people” allure and work ethic. As of September 2023, Mr. Kelce is second on the active list of consecutive games started in the NFL, yet another indicator of his “Iron Man” dedication.
Using a familial connection as the movie’s centerpiece was a smart move on the part of director Don Argott, whose résumé includes impressive bio-docs of Kurt Vonnegut, Phil Spector, John DeLorean, editorial cartoonist Bill Maudlin, and rocker Ronnie James Dio. The fact that these individuals have little, if nothing, in common speaks volumes to Mr. Argott’s ability to tackle such diverse subjects with authority.
Brother Versus BrotherMaking the same error as many already have, Mr. Argott frames this as a “brother vs. brother” battle which might sound good dramatically, but is completely off-base. As both brothers play on offense, they’re never on the field at the same time. This sort of incorrect billing regularly occurs when networks include a “vs.” in between the names of high-profile quarterbacks when promoting upcoming games.
This wasn’t even the first time two brothers faced off during a Super Bowl. In 2013 for Super Bowl XLVII, the winning Baltimore Ravens were coached by John Harbaugh and the losing San Francisco 49ers were led by his younger brother Jim.
Even though the final 30 minutes of “Kelce” is little more than an extended Super Bowl LVII highlight reel, it was probably the right narrative choice on the part of Mr. Argott and the producers (one of which is NFL Films). It also helps as the personal and private lives of the Kelce brothers had been fully mined by this point in the movie.
From a marketing perspective, the Kelce brothers and their respective families are pure gold. You’ve two “teddy bear” players devoid of scandal with squeaky-clean backgrounds, and thoroughly adorable wives and children. It would be next to impossible to taint such an idyllic portrait of Americana, yet Mr. Argott and NFL Films manage to do so.
Self-SabotageStarting out as an inspirational, family-friendly look into revered and respected NFL players quickly turns on a dime, making the same “forced-error” move as “Quarterback.” The elder Kelce brother begins tossing out “F-bombs” (and the many variations) as if they were innocuous pieces of candy and, to make matters even worse, so does Mr. Kelce's wife.
Personally, I have no issues with profanity, provided it is properly used in context. It’s quite effective when warranted. Here, it plays out as an 8-year-old boy who has just discovered the shocking power of it for the first time, and revels further by beating it into the ground.
It is an unfortunate feature of an otherwise uplifting movie and, once again, as with “Quarterback,” NFL Films needs to step back and reexamine what it wishes to convey to both its core audience and the uninitiated. Presenting players swearing like longshoremen probably isn’t the way to go.