2006-07-17 16:40


Ever since he was a small boy growing up in Mexico Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) has had only one ambition - to play professional football. But since the day his family were forced by poverty to sneak across the border to Los Angeles, Santiago's dream has remained as distant as the moon. Distant, that is, until Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane), a former talent scout for Newcastle United, happens to see Santiago playing for his local club. Inspired by the youngster's obvious flair and raw talent, Foy convinces him to travel halfway across the world for a trial with Newcastle. Defying his sceptical father, Santiago sets out to make his dream into reality.


Goal! is a thoroughly likeable film. It's nicely shot, full of amusing, earthy characters and the plot is so predictable its actually comforting. What Goal! isn't is the ultimate football film - despite what the marketing may tell you.

For starters the football, especially as young Munez moves into professional spheres, is not especially convincing. Sure it looks nice, and director Danny Cannon has enough talent to capture the thrill of great passages of play, but you're never able to suspend disbelief and accept that Munez is actually playing in a Premiership match.

The main impediment here is the filmmakers' insistence on using footage from actual matches. You see the likes of Alan Shearer setting up a goal, but they are conspicuously absent from the celebrations. You can understand their urge to get real Newcastle players into the movie, but in the interests of seamlessness it might have been wiser to use a whole team of actors and not try to fool the audience. By taking real players out of the mix even a silly little movie like Wimbledon managed more credibility!

If you can look past the non-football you'll find a cuddly, if rather daffy sports story. Though the initial screenplay came from the film's producers, Goal! was fleshed out by veterans Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the team behind 1991's The Commitments. Their touches of earthy wit and gritty Northern dialogue add some much needed flavour to the proceedings.

The film also looks fantastic. Cannon, and his cinematographer Michael Barrett, capture the best sides of both Los Angeles (all golden light and vivid colours) and Newcastle (misty, ancient and mythic). The lingering shots of St James' Park are equally pretty, though you sometimes get the feeling you're watching an advert for Newcastle United instead of a film.

Strangely enough the least successful thing about the film is its star. Kuno Becker comes across as, to put it bluntly, a wet. He is forever whining or crying or doing daft things. It's a tribute to the actors supporting him that we still like him at all. They all seem to have such affection for him that we end up liking him almost by proxy. Alessandro Nivola and Marcel Iures are particularly influential in our affections for Becker. Nivola plays the cheeky older star who learns life lessons from the upright young Munez (yeah right!), while Iures excels as the phlegmatic German club manager. Fans of Layer Cake may recognise Iures from his brief but memorable performance as the psychotic leader of a Serbian drug ring.

So Goal! is not the "ultimate football movie" that its marketing campaign is promising. It's as likeable, good looking and dunder-headed as its star and, had it been marketed as such, it might have been less disappointing. There's nothing wrong with a nicely made, predictable sports film that makes people smile, unless of course they've been promised the epic of the decade.

- Alistair Fairweather

This rags-to-riches football story should amuse fans of the English game (and football in general), but the thin plot and relentless predictability will turn many others off.

James Preston 2005/10/25 2:44 PM
Decent Soccer I am a Brit. And I love movies as well, so what a pleasure to finally amalgamate two of the greatest crowd pullers in history. I've seen the trailers, and it really does look like a class production. As opposed to the usual rubbish us football fans are given. Great review Alistair. I cannot wait to see the film. Batman Begins and The Passion of The Christ
Jacq 2005/10/29 4:05 PM
Fantastic if you're a footie fan If you love the English game and especially support Newcastle United in the Prem then this movie about the beautiful game is for you. I wouldn't say that it has a thin plot but it's mediocre. Flight Plan
sam 2005/11/04 10:11 PM
Soccer Fans! No other soccer movie has a good story. It is the best that i have ever seen. If you love sport and you love soccer, watch it! It was cool to see the english soccer team, like liverpool in the movie.
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