Movie: Goal! The Dream Begins
This came out on the same day as Poseidon, but since it's a soccer movie, I had to see it. I was not expecting too much. Sports films are notoriously difficult to do well. After all, the plot's a given: either the underdogs win or lose, and if it's the former it's predictable and if it's the latter we're depressed and pissed. You basically can't please the audience. The secret to do this right is balance: don't rest the entire movie on the game's outcome, but include plenty of other interesting events. In that respect, Goal scores. It's the hard-luck tale of a young Hispanic immigrant in L.A. who loves soccer but has a stern father who wants him to stay home and run the family's landscaping business. But Santiago, the boy, gets a chance to try out for Newcastle United, the famed English club, and jumps at it. Of course it doesn't go well and he faces all sorts of obstacles. I though the story was well-done and somewhat realistic, showing he doesn't just snap his fingers and realize his dream. Sure, many aspects of the story and characters are typical, but there's only so many ways you can tell this story. I would have perhaps liked to see more of his early upbringing and his youth soccer experiences (I read Pele's bio and the most fascinating part for me was his childhood, playing backyard ball with a sock stuffed with paper since he couldn't afford an actual soccer ball, and how that awkward, unbalanced sock-ball taught him unparalleled ball control), but overall the story's decent, the soccer's good, and it's a standard feel-good sports victory story. I don't watch many sports films so I can't say how this compares to others, but I thought it was excellent. I really enjoyed it. There are fun cameos with famous soccer stars, and some nice characterization twists I didn't expect. For instance, one of the characters, a total showboat jerk who's the club's big new signing, seems like he's going to bring Santiago down by teaching him his bad habits. Instead, it's the other way around, with Santiago's honest heart reforming the bad boy. Rather cool!
This film is the first of trilogy. In this one, Santiago gets signed by a big club and his "dream begins" as the tagline says. In the next he struggles with overnight stardom, and in the third he leads his country in the World Cup. That one is being filmed at this summer's World Cup tournament in Germany, with unprecendent access to teams and venues, so it should be a fantastic movie, one of the most realistic ever. I can't wait for the rest of the movies!