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Review: Goal! The Dream Begins

Goal! The Dream Begins runs through sports movie clichés with all the subtlety, style, and originality of a kick to the shins.

Nick Schager



Goal! The Dream Begins
Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

An against-all-odds fairy tale of the hoariest kind, Goal! The Dream Begins runs through sports movie clichés with all the subtlety, style, and originality of a kick to the shins. Santiago Munez (newcomer Kuno Becker) snuck across the Mexico-California border as a kid, a treacherous journey that cost him his beloved soccer ball but gave him the freedom to work with his demanding father (Tony Plana) as a landscaper and pool cleaner for L.A.’s Ritchie Riches (whose female contingent eye his hot Latino bod with cocky lasciviousness). Spotted playing soccer at a local park by former pro and talent scout Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane), Santiago, with the help of his kindly grandmother (Miriam Colon), soon finds himself heading to England against his father’s wishes to try out for the famous Newcastle United Football Club, where countless narrative duex ex machinas (courtesy of screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais) allow him to easily overcome a series of faux-dire obstacles. With Santiago’s setbacks and failures unfailingly countered by altruistic moral and financial support from Foy, Newcastle manager Erik Dornhelm (Marcel Iures), wild child superstar Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola), and Santiago’s sexy nurse girlfriend Roz (Anna Friel), this film from I Know What You Did Last Summer director Danny Cannonbarely musters the energy to even attempt reinvigorating its creaky truisms, dousing its ho-hum pitch action and professional and personal crisis in overripe sentimentality and a color scheme (golden yellows for L.A., damp blues for England) better suited for a children’s book. Cannon so predictably utilizes slow motion, including a shot of an anguished Santiago standing under a shower, and training montages—cue the umpteenth Oasis song!—and so thoroughly ignores his story’s race/class undercurrents that the film mostly feels like a comprehensive how-to guide for aspiring hacks interested in making a supremely formulaic athletic underdog fable. That Goal! is, in fact, the first installment in a planned trilogy may mean that Santiago’s cloying adventures are far from finished. But with any luck, its sequels will fail to garner a stateside release due to that most dependable of domestic attitudes: American apathy toward soccer.

Cast: Kuno Becker, Alessandro Nivola, Stephen Dillane, Anna Friel, Marcel Iures, Sean Pertwee, Cassandra Bell, Kieron Dyer, Gary Lewis, Miriam Colon, Tony Plana Director: Danny Cannon Screenwriter: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures Running Time: 118 min Rating: PG Year: 2005 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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