Review: Goal! The Dream Begins B-

A Film Review By Stefan Vlahov

If you look closely at the title of director Danny Cannon’s inspired sports drama, you will notice that the dream is only beginning with this film. That is because Disney is hoping to release two more films involving the same characters, with scripts just waiting to be greenlit. Disney’s hope that this will be a success is justified, because the film has everything that a modern sports drama should have, complete with good acting, epic storytelling, and of course the cliched off-shoots that films like these often possess. Also this film allows audiences to enjoy the film, by not implementing the, at times, unfamiliar rules of soccer – the sport the film centers around. I compliment screenwriter Adrian Butchart for doing it that way and I could almost see the English Cannon restraining himself from inserting various soccer jargon throughout.

Goal!‘s plot is really inspiring. It is about a kid by the name of Santiago Munez (relative newcomer Kuno Becker) who has a dream. His dream is to become a superstar soccer player (whose isn’t), but the fact that he lives in a bad neighborhood in Los Angeles, makes that dream seem even more impossible, then it already is. I mean, not many people from Barrio make it out there and that is the sad truth. Still, Santiago is a good player, in fact he might be the best in the Barrios. One day, he is noticed by the most unlikely, but the best person possible – a scout for Newcastle United (Stephen Dillane). He tells Santiago that he should try out for the team and there is no way Santiago can say no.

The film is divided into two parts – the first part takes place in Los Angeles and involves a lot of drama and struggle. Santiago’s family is struggling to make ends meet, and when Santiago tells his dad Hernan (Tony Plana) about the opportunity he has in England his Dad rejects it. He says it will cost a lot of money that they can’t risk right now and he doubts his son is good enough to play on such a high level. Santiago decides to leave his Dad and his whole family behind and go to England anyways, which might not be the best message to send the kids, but it is a fearless one that I almost partly admire. Still, now that I look on it, Butchart’s desicion to write it that way feels like it was only made that way in order to dodge a cliche, and the fact that I noticed that is a big negative. During the second part of the film, Santiago realizes that his Dad might have ben right. The training that he goes through is really hard and at times it seems that his skills simply can’t and don’t measure up to professional standards. Of course as the setting changes from USA to Europe, the feel of the film changes. The feeling of hope that was felt throughout the LA segment now switches to a feeling of pride and arrogance and the overall movie takes an ugly turn. There is fighting and partying (this is as PG-13 as PG movies get) – you know, the normal soccer fan behavior.

Director Danny Cannon whose last fim was the infamous and terrible I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, reportedly replaced Michael Winterbottom as director, when Winterbottom pulled out, because production took too long, and of course he wanted to tell A Cock and Bull story. While Cannon is a big step down from the talent that Winterbottom could’ve brought to the film, he does a fair job. I say fair, because the film struggles through familiar themes and is also never as emotional as it should be. For once I’d like to see a film that is unafraid of sticking to a dominating characteristic when it comes to their main characters. I’m not saying I don’t like multi-dimensional characters, in fact I think they add to a film. But why is it that Munez is badass in one moment and not in the other. He doesn’t approach different situations realistically and that drags every other character down with him. That is obviously a very trong sign that this is a kids film.

Granted, the actors do well. Becker, while a little of an over-actor, is a force to be reckoned with. He is also a good soccer player and displays some talent. Joining him is Sthephen Dillane who is probably the biggest name here, but comes off a little dry and Anna Friel, who plays Munez’s love interest (although I didn’t believe her as a nurse for a second), does a great job. Everyone else also does well and it’s a relief that they were given good lines, unlike some recent sports films (Glory Road).

Still, the actors are not blessed with good editing. Toward the end of the film, when everything is tied together, the film seems rushed. One moment Santiago is struggling with this the next with that. And of course the ending is way too abrupt, especially when the sequels need to be set up by it. Also the cinematography is inconsistent. This is one of those films that will leave you wanting more of the beauty that some of the scenes display – the scene on the beach is a work of cinematographical genius. By the way, the soccer games involve real soccer players from real teams and they are perfectly integrated with the actors which took a lot of time and is amazing.

While not technically sound, this sports drama is inspiring and is an overall good effort by the filmmakers. Many will be frusstrated by the quick end, and the lack of darker edge imagery in the film, they will appreciate the message, and will love the excitement of the soccer games. For me, this was a very good mixed bag, and while it’s not worth owning it is a good start of a promising trilogy and it’s definitely worth seeing once.

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