`Roughness' Goes Soft, Misses Its Mark

XX "Necessary Roughness," with Scott Bakula, Robert Loggia, Harley Jane Kozak, Hector Elizondo. Directed by Stan Dragoti, from a script by Rick Natkin and David Fuller. Crossroads, Factoria, Gateway, Grand Cinemas Alderwood, Lewis & Clark, Oak Tree, Parkway Plaza, Totem Lake, Uptown, Valley drive-in. "PG-13" - Parental guidance advised, due to rough language. --------------------------------------------------------------- This sports comedy starts out as a rowdy delight in the tradition of "Slapshot," but it loses its sense of the outrageous and quickly turns ho-hum.

For every sharp one-liner about a pampered college football team that's "so corrupt it could use its yearbook photos as mug shots," there's a brain-numbing plot development that's straight out of a desperate sitcom.

The movie begins just as this team has been expelled and Texas State University is searching for "real students" to replace them and keep the school clean of scandal. It might have been more fun if the filmmakers had spent a few minutes with the colorful bad guys.

Scott Bakula, the Emmy-nominated star of "Quantum Leap," plays a chain-smoking, 34-year-old farmer who is recruited to become a freshman quarterback by the new team's assistant coach (Robert Loggia).

Joining "the only quarterback who was alive when the Beatles were still together" are an astronomy teacher (Sinbad), a student with connections (Jason Bateman), an athlete with more heart than leg power (Andrew Lauer) and one woman (Kathy Ireland) who becomes the team's placekicker.

Hector Elizondo plays the coach hired to keep the team squeaky-clean. Larry Miller is his chief nemesis: a prissy, football-hating dean who is forever lurking around, trying to prove that "eternal vigilance is the price of integrity."

Unfortunately, director Stan Dragoti ("She's Out of Control") keeps too much of the film on this cartoonish level, and the script is virtually a list of contrivances (an apparent heart attack, a trumped-up falling-out between Bakula and Elizondo) and missed opportunities.

Bakula's romance with a journalism teacher (Harley Jane Kozak) is routine, and offbeat team players such as Lauer and Ireland are introduced only to be forgotten. Almost everyone in the cast has been seen to better advantage elsewhere.

- John Hartl