On paper, Goal! aims to be the perfect sports-based drama. The producers have signed up the talent they think will provide the winning start to a trilogy of football films charting the rise of gifted Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker), who gets the chance to move from the amateur leagues of America to Newcastle United. Experienced writers, a director well versed in cinema and television, real footballers as guest stars and a large helping of football action are put in position to make it a winner. Sadly, like Mean Machine (Barry Skolnick, 2001), there is no escaping from an uninspiring script and dull characters.
…the character cliches come thick and fast
With writing input from British sitcom veterans Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais, the brains behind classics such as Porridge and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, it is surprising Goal! has a cheese-filled, join-the-dot plot so obvious you would be odds on to place a winning bet on the outcome before it has even kicked off. This is epitomised by the discovery of Munez by Newcastle player-turned-scout Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane), who just happens to see him do a few tricks and offers a run-out for Newcastle if he can make it to England. Hernan Munez (Tony Plana) refuses to give his son the backing to fulfil his footballing fantasies, believing he will fail. Will someone come to Munez’s aid? Will Munez fail like his father predicts and be left to rue a stupid decision to try to live a dream? Will you care? Probably not as the character cliches come thick and fast. Munez becomes a hero questioning his own ability joined by club-nurse-turned-girlfriend (Anna Friel), a star striker playboy (Alexander Nivola) and a hardman defender plotting Munez’s downfall. If that does not make you cringe, David Beckham and Alan Shearer delivering a few lines probably will.
Nivola clearly enjoys playing the superstar bad boy and steals the show from Becker, who makes Munez appear a whimp of a nice-guy few could find engaging. Friel’s nurse is the typical instant love interest bowled over by Munez’s innocent charm. Goal! resembles a feature length episode of footie-soap Dream Team as Danny Cannon (Judge Dredd, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, CSI) fails to breathe life into these cardboard cut-out characters. The match action offers some respite as it mixes real footage with that of the actors to good effect, but is marred by balls changing colour between passes and predictable outcomes. It just adds to the argument that if you want to watch football, or any sport, the real thing provides better drama than a scriptwriter can shoehorn into a three-minute sequence.
…Goal! 2 will need some new signings and better tactics if the series is to win promotion to the premier league of cinema.
While Goal! has its heart in the right place, it is too eager to please and afraid to take chances. Munez’s illegal immigrant status in America is glossed over when it could have added some grounding in reality. The fairytale message that as long as you are honest, hardworking and stick to your ideals you will be rewarded is lazy for a film aiming to be taken seriously around the globe and into two sequels. Goal! 2 will need some new signings and better tactics if the series is to win promotion to the premier league of cinema.