Mike Bassett
England Manager

Thankless job. Mike and his coach (Tomlinson & Walsh) preside over a practice session.
dir Steve Barron
scr Rob Sprackling, JRN Smith
with Ricky Tomlinson, Amanda Redman, Martin Bashir, Philip Jackson, Bradley Walsh, Dean Lennox Kelly, Geoff Bell, Robbie Gee, Phill Jupitus, Keith Allen, Atomic Kitten, Pele
release UK 28.Sep.01
01/UK 1h30

3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
engerland! This mock-documentary is surprisingly well-produced and frequently funny, even if it never scales the dizzy heights of Spinal Tap brilliance. The basic premise is that the English football squad is in desperate need of a new manager to take them to the World Cup in Brazil, and rather than look outside England they opt for the lower-division Bassett (Tomlinson), an old-style manager thrown from the small time into the most thankless job in the country. And the road to Rio is a rocky one indeed, especially with a documentary interviewer (Bashir, as himself) along to catch every embarrassing moment.

Yes, with a Swede now in the top England job, the premise is rather outdated. But the filmmakers forge on, and the result is enjoyable, mostly because it's accurate down to the tiniest detail. The humour is subtle and clever; the best gags are in throwaway lines of dialog and little bits of action around the edge of the central narrative. Tomlinson is his usual scruffy self at the centre, which is a bit of a problem because it's hard to have any sympathy with him. But at least he plays the character dead straight, never lapsing into comic sketch territory. Barron directs with real energy, keeping the film moving along briskly and giving it a terrific visual sense of time and place. It looks and feels exactly like a fly-on-the-wall doc--the satire is almost subliminal. Most of the laughs come from a clever comments about sport and culture, or witty cameos from the likes of Pele or Atomic Kitten (who show up to help record the team anthem, naturally). It's certainly not a classic film--and it would have worked better if it'd been released before the reign of Sven-Goran Erikkson--but it's still worth a look, especially for football fans.
language, themes cert 15 24.Sep.01

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall