Goal! A Review… sorta

There’re probably some spoliers below, so here’s a summary of everything I’m about to write down:

Goal! is not too shabby – too bad about the football.

Right. Here’s the expanded version – and remember, there be spoilers below, arr!

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Picture from IMDB

For some reason, during the time spent watching the movie, I kept getting the feeling that the writers for the movie had divided the job among themselves and never had really enough time to integrate their portions of the script together. So in the end, I felt like I was watching different short films with the same characters.

Basic story is this: A Mexican illegal immigrant in America loves soccer, and is apparently quite good at it. His father wants him to join the family business, but then this prodigy gets spotted by an Englishman in LA, and soon gets on a plane to England where he ends up at Newcastle United playing for a manager who looks like a cross between Arsene Wenger and Sven-Goran Eriksson. The rest of the movie is about him breaking through to the first team and, inevitably, scoring a very important goal for the club.

As my attempt at summarising the movie above shows, the movie is quite predictable. The young lad, Santiago Munez (played by Kuno Becker), will undoubtedly achieve his “goal” (or “matlamat“, as the Malaysian powers-that-be have deemed to call it). Especially given the number of opportunities the manager, coach and players of Newcastle Utd repeatedly hand Munez to help him achieve his dream. It would be so sweet if this was a fairy-tale.

But you know what? It is a fairy tale. Once you get that into your head, it’s easy to overlook the bugs in the system – like, as pointed out in the comments at Dzof’s review, how a Mexican without any international experience is able get a work permit playing for an EPL club, or how come real football stars don’t appear in the same shots as Becker and Alessandro Nivola (who plays playboy striker Gavin Harris) during the matches (that’s because they weren’t in those scenes – footage from actual matches were mixed in with fake matches, where Nivola and Becker play with football-player-lookalikes – e.g. look out for a Milan Baros impersonator as he runs past Santiago Munez in one scene.). There is a scene where the protagonist has a bit of a chat with Messrs Beckham, Raul and Zidane, but given the absurdly large prominence placed on their appearance in the local promos for the movie, it really is ridiculous to spend any amount of money to watch this movie JUST to be able catch celeb sightings like those Real stars (or any of the Newcastle players, for that matter).

Oh, and to the idiot at the cinema who kept wondering aloud whether Owen would make an appearance…… relax, Sashi, relax… count to 10… 1…. 2…. 3…. 4…. 5… err….. 10.

But the good news is, the non-footballing side of the movie is not too bad. Plays like a Disney movie at times, but Becker manages to pull off a decent performance as a boy daring to – and actually managing to living the – dream. Nivola (who will be forever etched in my mind as Pollux Troy from Face/Off) does pretty well too as the stereotypical football millionaire who loves fast cars and even faster women. The very boobylicious Anna Friel has a minor role as Munez’s girlfriend, but really, she’s just there as eye-candy.

There’s one scene that really kinda got to me – it was when Munez visits a fellow Newcastle reserve player at the hospital, and he learns that his friend has a serious injury and will never be able to play football again. The look on the injured player’s face when he showed his leg to Munez mirrored the emotions of a man who’s lost everything. It’s one thing to quit football due to injury after you’ve made a decent living out of it for some time, but to quit before you’ve even got started… fate can be cruel indeed.

Special mention has to go to Marcel Iures, who plays Newcastle manager Erik Dornhelm with enough authority and style that he really does look the part of a foreign manager in England. Plus, given my bias for the passing game, he wins points for pointing out repeatedly to Munez why he shouldn’t be so American by playing football unilaterally.

Yes, the football stinks. All that hype about realistic football choreography, and what do we get? Fast moving close-ups of players’ legs. Too many scenes of Munez dribbling past the opposition. Unrealistic and too individualistic. Football’s about 11 men versus 11 men, but it could have been 2 against 5 as far as this movie is concerned.

But like I said, put aside the football side of it, and it becomes pretty easy to get attached to the characters, epsecially Santiago Munez. Once you do that, you’re bound to enjoy the movie – even if the final match was obviously uncomfortable for me to watch (if you haven’t watched the movie, here’s a hint: I’m a Liverpool supporter).

My verdict: 3/5 for the movie, 1/100 for the football.

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