Goal! The Dream Begins

Goal! The Dream Begins is the stereotypical rags to riches sports story that hits every single salient point along the way from nobody to superstar. Yes, it is predictable. Yes, it is cheesy. Yes, it is one big walking cliche. But sports movies are easy to pump out, and Goal works its evil way into the hearts and minds of its audience. The filmmakers are pretty confident, since two sequels are already in various stages of production. Which means that audiences will get more of Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker, Imagining Argentina, Lucia, Lucia), the plucky Los Angeles illegal immigrant who goes from playing in an informal lead to playing for Newcastle United in England. Oops! Was that a spoiler? No, because this is a sports movie, and they inevitably have happy endings (especially when the title of the second film is Goal! Living the Dream...).

Becker is part of the reason why the movie is so much better than it deserves to be. He has a very appealing personality, and seems like a genuinely nice guy. Moreover, he is boyishly handsome and rugged, much the same way Jay Hernandez is (cute, Hispanic, nearly shaved head...). Munez's enthusiasm for the game is infectious, although director Danny Cannon (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Phoenix) and writers Mike Jeffries, Adrian Butchart (I Love Your Work), and Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (Honest, Still Crazy) give him way too many chances. It's normal for a sports film to have its star fail once or twice, then have something fortuitous happen to let him try again. Not here. Apparently, each credited writer wanted one second chance scene. It's ridiculous how many there are.

Munez also has one of those sports fathers (Tony Plana, Lost City, Half Past Dead) who is adamant that his son does not pursue his dream. His father brought his family across the border and supports them with a small gardening business. He is mean, uncaring, and has never seen his son play soccer. He should have, since the first time Glen Foy (Stephane Dillane, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Nine Lives) watches Munez play, he does all he can to get him a tryout with Newcastle. Foy was both a player and talent scout long ago. Foy tells Munez that if he can get make it to England, he will get a tryout. The choice to cast Dillane, Plana, and Gary Lewis (Joyeux Noel, Yes) in supporting roles is smart. Plana is a great actor who usually sticks to television, and it's sad that he has such a cliched part.

Well, he does make it to Newcastle, where the English game surprises him. The players are tough and the weather sucks, but he gets to meet a cute girl (Anna Friel, Timeline, Me Without You) and deals with a superstar more concerned with money and babes than football (Alessandro Nivola, Junebug, The Clearing). Along the way, as anybody would expect, Munez continues to rise to the occasion, despite the temptations of fame and fortune. Even with all the fromage, Cannon moves things quickly. There are a few cameos (including some guy named David Beckham), and the football scenes are edited nicely and filmed with a thunderous full crowd. Fluffy, but enjoyable.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 57 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language, sexual situations, and some thematic material including partying.

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