2.5/5 US title: Goal! The Dream Begins
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Danny Cannon
scr Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais
with Kuno Becker, Stephen Dillane, Alessandro Nivola, Marcel Iures, Anna Friel, Gary Lewis, Tony Plana, Miriam Colon, Sean Pertwee, Frances Barber, Ashley Walters, David Beckham
release UK 30.Sep.05,
US 12.May.06
05/UK Buena Vista 1h55

Toon Army: Nivola, Becker and teammates

becker nivola friel
See also:
Goal II (2007) Goal III (2009)
Goal! If you like rags-to-riches fairy tales, you'll love this romanticised ode to unrealistic dreams. Fortunately, the direction and performances are good enough to get us through the progressively hackneyed storyline.

Santiago Muñez (Becker) is a young Mexican who illegally crossed into America as a child. He lives with his angry single dad (Plana) in Los Angeles, working two jobs and playing football (that's soccer to the Yanks) every chance he gets. One day he's spotted by a has-been talent scout (Dillane), who arranges a trial with the Newcastle United manager (Iures). Now in cold, rainy Northeast England, Santiago has a month to prove himself worthy of playing alongside such greats as Alan Shearer and cocky new star Harris (Nivola).

Funded in part by Fifa, this is clearly a propaganda film designed to promote the sport in the States. Everything is softened for American audiences, from reckless star excesses to Geordie accents. (And it looks like the Newcastle Tourism Board had a hand in it as well.) That said, the film does capture the cultures of European football obsession and non-London Britain; director Cannon maintains a wonderfully raucous tone, which feels authentic even if it's sculpted to be as quirky and inoffensive as possible. And the football is wonderfully adrenaline-fuelled.

The story starts promisingly, centring on Santiago's singular love of the sport. Becker is a charming, ruggedly handsome presence, and even though his playing scenes are clearly doubled, we get a strong feel for the character both on and off the pitch. Supporting characters are also strong, surprising us with moments of authentic humanity even as the plot itself leaves all logic behind. Beckham even gets through his scene with his dignity intact.

Then the narrative cliches creep in (Pertwee's arrogant agent, Colon's kindly grandma, Friel's love-interest nurse, Lewis' encouraging coach), and the story begins to hinge on contrived coincidences. Finally, even the dialog becomes horribly corny as the film surges to an astonishingly silly conclusion that only manages to tug at the heartstrings because the cast have by then earned our sympathy. Just a bit more invention and creativity could have made this a true winner.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 18.Aug.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Goal! Vili, Macedonia: 5/5 "i like very much this film and actors. it's very nice and the football is very good. go santi!" (7.Oct.05)
© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall