Comedian Kevin James and Taylor Lautner, stars of “Home Team,” have reflected on how the forthcoming Netflix sports comedy highlights the important role a father — or a father figure — plays in the life of a child at a time when the role is often diminished in entertainment.
Hitting the streaming service Jan. 28 and produced by Happy Maddison Productions, “Home Team” is inspired by actual events. It tells the story of former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton (Kevin James) after he was suspended for the 2012 season as part of the "Bountygate" scandal.
While on suspension, the Super Bowl-winning coach returns home, where he’s eager to reconnect with his estranged 12-year-old son, Connor. Eventually, he’s convinced by Connor’s football coach, Coach Troy (Taylor Lautner), to help coach his son’s sixth-grade football team, The Warriors. What follows is a series of both comedic and heartwarming events — and the rebuilding of a father-son relationship.
In an interview with The Christian Post, James, a father of four, emphasized that the movie highlights the importance of finding time for family and maintaining relationships in even the busiest seasons of life.
“We all get caught up in this world of working and fulfilling our duties in the workplace and … it's hard … and it's difficult, but it is key to find those moments, to be able to do it in whatever way, shape or form you can to spend more time with your family and really connect because families need that,” James said. “It's so important.”
“Home Team” is not a faith-based movie, and it’s rated PG for crude material, some suggestive references and mild language. But the feel-good sports movie highlights a crucial point: The importance of a father, or father-figure, in a child’s life cannot be underestimated.
Statistics show that many of the issues seen in society — from teen suicide and the incarceration rate to drug addiction and atheism — are directly related to fatherlessness. According to U.S. Census Bureau, about 7.6 million (11%) children lived with only their mother in 1968 compared to 15.3 million (21%) in 2020.
“Coach Troy is to Connor and all those kids, sort of a father figure, an older brother figure,” Lautner reflected. “And obviously, he knows what's going on in Connor's life with Sean being busy, coaching an NFL team and not being around a lot and knowing what Connor needs, and that's a father. Not a coach, a dad.”
The “Twilight” actor pointed out that as a former child actor himself, having trusted adults around him made a tremendous impact — and it felt like a “full circle” moment to be there for the young cast of “Home Team.”
“I had those people in my life, whether it was the adult actors working with me or whoever ... was there for me that made me feel comfortable and supported, and it was really cool to be there [for the “Home Team” actors],” he said. “Coach Troy's there for them, but I wanted Taylor to be there for them, too.”
Coach Payton reconnecting with his son, James added, came amid a “dip in his career.” Instead of wallowing, the coach “turned it into an amazing moment; he turned into an opportunity.”
“Instead of looking at it as a downbeat, he said, ‘Hey, let me look at this from a different perspective,’ and had the greatest coaching season in his career,” James said, adding: “It taught me a huge lesson in my life, and it makes me try to really stop and say, ‘Hey, this is more important. This is going great, but you know what? We’ve always got to focus on the family, and see what they're going through and connect … relationships, they need that interaction.”
The real-life coach Payton, who recently announced his retirement, was involved in the creation of “Home Team” — and bringing his story to the big screen was “emotional” for the storied coach, James said.
“He's an amazing guy,” the actor said. “And beyond that, an amazing father above, above even being a Super Bowl-winning coach. He really does care. I remember talking to him about the season that he did spend with the Warriors, and with his kid, and he would get emotional, he would be crying on a zoom call with me. … He literally had to take a minute … because he was just reminiscing about how much it meant to him and how great [it made] his relationship with him and his son, Connor. It just moved me.”
“Home Team” hits Netflix on Jan. 28. The film stars Rob Schneider, Jackie Sandler, Gary Valentine, Tait Blum and more.
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org