In what seems a fairly cynical attempt to win American sport-lovers over to the world game, the FIFA-sanctioned and script-approved film Goal! fails in almost all aspects of filmmaking, but in spite of that is moderately enjoyable for those interested in the gods of the round ball.

Goal!Evidently, the request to use several big-name players in the film itself required a FIFA sanction, and this allowed them to demand script-approval. It certainly seems the story has been tampered with – instead of a realistic portrayal of the difficulties that face a young star in a new life of wealth and fame, we are presented with a schmaltzy mess of cliché and happy endings. No writer could honestly present this tale as a believable work of fiction.

Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) gets more chances at the big time than is conceivable, (and continues to blow them), and this is perhaps the weakest element of Goal! For while one or two mis-steps might be let go, there is no way a professional sporting club like Newcastle United would have tolerated the antics of this young man. The writers seem to have wanted to include more and more trouble for their hero to face, when the film would certainly have been stronger for having one or two less crises. This may also have reduced the running time of 118 minutes, which is really quite excessive for an extremely simple tale of triumph over adversity.

The fact that Munez is even given the opportunity is one of the more laughable aspects of Goal!, and speaks to the filmmakers’ (or FIFA’s?) desire to say that anything is possible if you believe – a worthy sentiment, but one so out of keeping with the realities of modern sport that it is a tough one to sell. The fantasy-like atmosphere utterly betrays the film; when it is shooting for inspirational, it scores only laughable.

Laughable is also a good word to describe the input of real-life superstars David Beckham, Zinédine Zidane and Raul Gonzalez, who share a nightclub scene of intense embarassment. At least the performance of Alan Shearer isn’t completely abysmal, but as his only line is a grunt, most would have succeeded.

Goal!The action sequences are generally well done, although the real footage and that showing the non-player stars Becker and Alessandro Nivola are cut together quite poorly, and it never seems they are truly sharing the same field. Becker is adequate in a role with very little dramatic interest, and although his character is completely whitewashed, Nivola gets to have a little fun as ‘bad boy’ Gavin Harris. His eventual redemption at the hands of Munez is ridiculous in conception, however, and lends the final act a sense of absurdity I’m quite sure was not the intention.

Forming the first part of a trilogy – three films were planned prior to the release of this first, suggesting either over-confidence on behalf of the backers, or that they don’t actually care how the films are received as long as they are getting the brand to the forefront – one can hardly wait for this ridiculous story to develop even further. Perhaps Munez can play in the World Cup for his native Mexico and win them their first ever title with a score in the final seconds? Trite, clichéd and full of overly manipulative sentiment, Goal! is really only for football fans.

Rating: 2.0 stars
Review by Mark Lavercombe, 27th February 2006
Hoopla Factor: 3.0 stars

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