Goal! The Dream Begins
Dir. Danny Cannon. 2005. PG. 118mins. Kuno Becker, Stephen Dillane, Alessandro Nivola, Tony Plana, Anna Friel, Marcel Iures.
Soccer enthusiasts soon may be chanting “Bend it like Becker” because the Mexican TV heartthrob portrays a diamond-in-the-rough footballer so well. Goal! works better as a display of what makes soccer so exciting than it does as (yet another) tale of an underdog athlete who transcends poverty/physical impairment/powerful opponents (take your pick) to become a star. Becker plays an illegal immigrant working two jobs to help keep his family afloat in L.A., while still finding time to kick butt on a local field. That’s where he’s spotted by a visiting Brit (Dillane), a former pro and agent, who arranges a tryout with the owner (Iures) of the U.K.’s famed Manchester United.
Chief among the newcomer’s obstacles is his dad (Plana), at once resentful of his son’s big chance and fearful he’ll fail. But soon enough the kid is up against the big boys, being roundly outclassed on the mud-slicked pitch by Manchester’s heavies and their most recent expensive acquisition, a lothario (Nivola) who scores as many tabloid headlines as goals. Becker compounds problems by concealing his asthma from the team’s dishy nurse (Friel), though a rival player is soon onto his secret.
Cannon, a veteran helmer of TV’s C.S.I., is adept at conveying the game’s suspense. The electricity during each superbly choreographed match might just turn some soccer holdouts into fans.—Andrea Gronvall