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Disney has a problem with movies “Based on True Story”. In fact, they have a tendency to make so much crap up in the movies that it ruins the story. Disney tends to go so far over the top that the true story is turned into more of a caricature of itself. Too bad that Invincible was another movie whose underlying story was destroyed. Let’s look at what was made up and what wasn’t.

First-wife friction

Papale’s first wife really did leave him, including a note that exclaimed, “You will never amount to anything.” However, this breakup actually occurred in 1971, five years prior to the events portrayed in the movie. So while partially true, the spin in Invincible is not close to the whole truth.

Suburbanite or city boy?

Papale grew up in Glenolden, a blue-collar Philadelphia suburb located about 12 miles away from his urban movie neighborhood of South Philly. But, of course the story plays better if he is from the notorious South Philly and not Glenolden.
Papale only played football with his buddies?

A blatant lie. While Vince didn’t play in college, he did play two years of professional football for the Philadelphia Bell in the short-lived World Football League. To me this goes beyond stretching the facts; this is an outright lie!

Papale showed up at a open tryout and made the team?

Not even close! Papale was invited to tryout – He didn’t just show up to the open tryouts after learning about it from a television broadcast, as the movie implies. He, along with a few other Philadelphia Bell players, received an invitation to the tryout from Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil after the WFL folded in 1976. And Papale needed no encouragement from his buddies: He always desperately wanted to play for the Eagles.

Vermeil’s talk with Papale

Coach Dick Vermeil did not give Papale the good news in the Veteran’s Stadium parking lot next to Vince’s broken-down car: He called Papale into his office and told him he could come to training camp. Not as dramatic, I know, but that is how it’s done in the NFL.

Did the climactic scene in the movie happen?

Yes and no. It is true that Papale forced a fumble during a punt in his first home game – but he did *not* score a touchdown. NFL rules at that time actually forbade advancement of the ball after a muffed punt. That scene was a huge Hollywood embellishment. In truth, after recovering the ball, the Eagles offensive team scored a touchdown on the ensuing series.

Was Papale’s girlfriend Janet real?

Vince is married to a girl named Janet; unfortunately, they met in 1991, so no there was no Janet love interest during the time the movie takes place in. Of course, Hollywood films need a love interest and if there is none in the true story, you can be sure Hollywood will create one.

Conclusion

Hollywood – and especially Disney – strike again! I understand that sometimes maybe something needs to be spiced up for the sake of the movie, but when it is based on a true story, I expect most of what I am seeing to have happened. In Invincible, most of the film’s significant events didn’t happen – and a better story may have been left on the cutting-room floor.

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