Goal! The Dream Begins

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Kuno Becker as Santiago Munez
Alessandro Nivola as Gavin Harris
Anna Friel as Roz Harmison
Stephen Dillane as Glen Foy
Gary Lewis as Mal Braithwaite
Kieran O’Brien as Hughie McGowan
Sean Pertwee as Barry Rankin
Marcel Iures as Erik Dornhelm
Tony Plana as Hernan Munez
Miriam Colon as Mercedes
Kate Tomlinson as Val
Emma Field-Rayner as Lorraine
Zachary Johnson as Rory
Frances Barber as Carol Harmison
Kevin Knapman as Jamie Drew

Special Features:
“The Beautiful Game” – Featurette on the Worldwide Soccer Phenomenon

“Behind the Pitch” – How the Film’s Intense Soccer Action Came Together Using Real Premiership Matches and the Actors

Audio Commentary with Filmmakers

Happy Mondays Music Video: “Playground Superstar”

Golden Moments of the FIFA World Cup™ Featurette

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.40:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Language
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 118 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD cover:

“Like the inspiring heroes in ‘Miracle, ‘Remember the Titans’ and ‘The Rookie,’ the amazingly gifted Santiago Muñez, a young immigrant living in the barrios of Los Angeles, has an impossible dream — to play soccer for a world class team. Unexpectedly getting a tryout with one of England’s premier soccer clubs, Newcastle United, Santiago finds himself totally alone in a world where soccer is a religion and the players are gods. Now he not only has to prove he has the passion, talent, and determination to make it alongside the best in the world, but he has to overcome his own demons and those of others. Filled with memorable characters, great heart, and real-life soccer legends, ‘Goal! The Dream Begins’ is a triumphant story about believing in your dreams.”

“Goal! The Dream Begins” is rated PG-13 for some sexual content, language, and a brief drug reference.

The Movie:
Few studios have spent as much time and money trying to revive the classic sports drama than Disney, and with “Goal!,” they’ve taken a more ambitious approach to the genre with the tale of a young immigrant who follows his dream to play professional football. It’s a story so big that they decided that it needed to be told over the course of three movies. Yes, it’s a trilogy.

As a young boy, Santiago snuck across the Mexican-American border with his family, already having a soccer ball in his young hands. Years later, he’s playing amateur football with co-workers when he’s spotted by a British scout who sees potential in him. He makes a few calls and tells Santiago that if he can get to England for try-outs, he may be able to get onto the hugely popular Newcastle United team. Of course, Santiago’s father is not supportive of his son’s desire to pursue a career in football, which plays a large part in Santiago wanting to succeed and prove his father wrong, but Santiago also hopes that one day his father will be proud of him. But first he has to get to England, which poses a few problems, the first being money and the second being his lack of a green card. With the help of his grandmother, he gets to England, but learns that having skills and passing try-outs are two different things. The team owner sees potential and gives him more than a few chances, while Santiago develops a crush on the team nurse, who usually doesn’t date players but sees something special in the young American.

There isn’t anything that groundbreaking or amazing about this story of a boy following his dream, except that at least the game play and Santiago’s journey through the ranks of the British team seem fairly authentic, maybe due to the involvement of FIFA in producing the film. Those who enjoy British football should appreciate the efforts, while those who nothing about the game, may actually learn a thing or two.

While I’m sure young girls could spend a few hours swooning over dreamy Kuno Becker, he’s not a particularly good actor, playing off his charm to accent the nice guy aspect of the part, but then completely over-dramatizing when things get even remotely serious. On the other hand, Alessandro Nivola is far more convincing as the team’s partying superstar, hated by the fans because he’s not as good as he thinks. He takes Santiago under his wing, turns on him and then turns over a new leaf.

For the most part, it’s fairly predictable, and far too often, the film devolves into sentimentality and the type of obvious film storytelling that we’ve seen too many times before, particularly the subplot involving Santiago’s fathers. There’s also no reason why this movie needed to be two hours long, and I’m sure we could have done without one of the many scenes of Santiago not making the cut and being ready to go home with his head between his legs. Of course, it’s not too hard to figure out how it will end, especially when you consider that a sequel is already in production.

Director Danny Cannon does a decent job on the visual and technical side, particularly with the football action that makes you feel as if you’re one of the players on the pitch. The fan in me wishes there were more of it. He also gives the film a decidedly Anglocentric feel with the heavy use of Oasis tunes in the soundtrack.

The Extras:
The DVD features your standard selection of extras:

“The Beautiful Game” Featurette – While a lot of this featurette talks about the worldwide popularity of soccer, the second half of it is your standard ‘making of’ featurette. It has your interviews with cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and other such stuff. They also discuss the initial pitch that was given to the studios for the movie.

“Behind the Pitch” – This bonus feature shows how they made the intense soccer games look so realistic. They would run out onto the fields during real matches and shoot footage. They’d also use a bit of CG to fill in for crowds and for balls in amazing shots. This ends up being one of the more interesting bonus features.

Audio Commentary with Filmmakers – This is your standard commentary. Unfortunately none of the actors take part in it.

Happy Mondays Music Video: “Playground Superstar” – This is a pretty good music video. What the lead singer lacks in looks he more than makes up for in musical talent.

Golden Moments of the FIFA World Cup™ Featurette – This is a highlight reel of some of the best FIFA moments from the last 50 years or so.

The Bottom Line:
If you’re a fan of European or English football, the authenticity to this sports story may allow you to forgive some of the more wince-worthy sentimental moments. Santiago’s inspirational story and the soccer action certainly made me want to see what happens to him next.

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