If theater #24 at the AMC Veterans multiplex had been filled with 80 movie critics on Tuesday morning, the blizzard of reviews that followed would have been mixed. There was plenty of laughter during the 107 minutes of this special a.m. screening of "The Other Guys," but some dissenting opinions were voiced as the theater emptied.
All in attendance agreed on this, however: Compared to a two-hour full-pads football practice in the hot sun, Tuesday's cinematic experience was four stars, an A and two really big thumbs up.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were originally scheduled to practice twice on Tuesday, early in the second week of their 2010 training camp. A padded practice in the morning would be followed by meetings, naps and a second two-hour session in the early evening. However, Head Coach Raheem Morris surprised his players at their 8:00 a.m. team meeting when he told them to head out to a fleet of buses waiting in front of the building.
"He said it's Santa Claus in the summertime, and it felt good when he came in and said that," said rookie wide receiver Mike Williams. "I'd rather watch a movie than practice right now."
While Williams and his fellow Buccaneer newcomers were surely surprised, some of the team's veterans probably saw the detour coming. After all, the team has been doing something similar - taking an unscheduled break from two-a-days to take in a movie and get a little extra rest - since its seven-year camp run at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.
Through the years, the Bucs have viewed such movies as "The Dark Knight," "Invincible" and "G.I. Joe." It's unclear where "The Other Guys" would rank among that group (one guesses behind Batman and ahead of Joe), but the few panning it on the way out seemed to be overruled by the overall reaction inside the theater. The buddy-cop vehicle starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, plus Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Michael Keaton and Eva Mendes in key supporting roles, recently unseated "Inception" on the box office charts and seemed to find quite a few new fans on Tuesday morning.
The entertainment inside theater #24 actually began before the movie began. Piggy-backing one training camp tradition on top of another, the team's veterans urged several members of the 2010 draft class to go to the front of the room and sing a song. First-round defensive tackle Gerald McCoy claimed to have no singing ability but soon had the room clapping and singing along to his R&B selection. Williams was next up but begged off the singing, earning him a light shower of popcorn kernels. He was saved by the lights going down.
With no previews to kick it off, the selected movie began immediately. Williams and his teammates sank into their comfortable chairs, enjoyed the theater's air conditioning, munched on free movie snacks and forgot about football for a couple hours. When they were done, the same buses were waiting outside to take them back to One Buccaneer Place, and back to the business at hand.
Williams certainly appreciated Santa's unexpected gift, though he knew he'd be running routes again very soon.
"We've got practice this afternoon anyway," he said. "We've got a chance to take care of that later but right now it's good to get off our legs and watch a movie."