Goal! cover

STUDIO: Touchstone
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
• "The Beautiful Game" featurette
• "Behind the Pitch" featurette
• Full-length commentary
• Happy Mondays’ music video
• Highlights from World Cup games

The Pitch

every soccer-loving kid’s dream come true!"

The Humans

Becker, Stephen Dillane (King Arthur), Anna Friel (the bloody
countess in the upcoming Bathory)

The Nutshell

Think, if
you will, of life as algebra. 0 + x
> 11. Let x be a protagonist. Until
we know what x is, the inequality stands.
Over the course of a given feel-good movie, the value of x increases until it satisfies the conditions of the inequality.

don’t call math "the beautiful sport" for nothin’.

Enthusiasm. I like it.

The Lowdown

There are
genres that stray too often into formula, and then there are genres that exist
only as a formula. The garden-variety inspirational film fits into the latter.
The term "inspirational" applies to those films which replicate a
certain character arc: starting from point A, or "the bottom," and
rising to point B, or "realization of wildest, unrealistic dreams." There
are methods to avoid tripping over well-worn ruts in the writing of inspirational
stories, but they all sketch the same exponential graph of time against
character achievement.

the sincerity of many entries in the genre (Miracle, for example),
there is something almost adolescent about the way they are adapted for the
screen. Their stories represent pure fantasy. "Gee," says the child.
"It sure would be neat if my favorite sports team would pick me, out of a
group of my peers, to play professional ball with them. I would be so
cool." Your fantasies may vary. Mine usually do. The drama is in the
distance traveled between points A and B, not in the nature of the destination.

the natures of both the origin and the destination define the characters; when
those character aspects are dismissed and folded into the formula, then we get
a boring movie. Goal! is just such a movie. All the nuance and interest in our
Santiago‘s origin is baked out of the
script. His family are illegal immigrants; his father doesn’t want him to dream
for anything big; and he has asthma. These obstacles are broad, and
featureless. What’s worse, they’re transient. The story kicks through its plot
points with barely a glance over its should for the impact the past might have
on the present. Another contribution to the movie’s smooth, unnatural feel.

Sweet Zombie… Mother Mary?

There are
some nice diversions along the way, though. The soccer matches are nimbly paced
and exciting throughout, which is good since they crop up pretty frequently.
The ferocity of opposition shown by Santaigo’s father is initially compelling,
but stands as too transient an obstacle to successfully inject much drama into
the proceedings.

I’m kind
of tired of the mode of inspirational storytelling that operates under the
creed "the ends obviate the means." In order to get a true sense that
the protagonist accomplishes something, the beginning of the journey has to be
as compelling as the end. Goal! smoothes over the
complications that are so necessary when, well, overcoming complications. Such
featureless distance, combined with an unchallenging role for the lead, make
the film energetic but directionless.

The good
news is that if you violently disagree with my criticism, there are two sequels
in production.

Are you inspired yet?

The Package

This is a
decently filled disc, with very little in the way of fluff material. There’s a
featurette called "The Beautiful Game" which is essentially a profile
of the game of soccer and its worldwide following. Another featurette,
"Behind the Pitch," targets the most interesting of behind-the-scenes
topics: that of how the on-field scenes were shot and choreographed.

full-length audio commentary with the filmmakers is decent as far as these
things go, and offers a good context for the creation of the story, the casting
Santiago, and the cultural interest behind
a soccer movie featuring a quasi-American.

The other
two features are less noteworthy, being a music video from the band Happy
Mondays, and a highlight reel from World Cup games.

5.5 out of 10