Predictable Goal! The Dream Begins
may not be the stuff of everyone's reveries, but the film is capably acted and somewhat inspiring.
With the soccer craze well established in the USA (as it has long been in the rest of the world), Goal!
should find a receptive youthful audience of both genders. And the upcoming World Cup tournament, which begins June 9 in Germany, could help, too.
Teen girls and soccer moms are likely to be captivated by hunky Kuno Becker, one of the biggest stars of the Hispanic world, as Mexican immigrant Santiago Munez, whose talent for soccer is established at an early age.
Though not explored fully enough, Santiago's story of assimilation resonates, especially given the current political climate surrounding immigration law.
As a child, Munez comes to Los Angeles illegally with his family. His hard-nosed and hardworking father (Tony Plana) carves out a life for his family with a gardening job. Ten years later, Santiago works nights as a busboy and days as a gardener with his dad. But whenever possible, he indulges his passion for soccer.
Spotted by a scout (Stephen Dillane), Santiago gets a shot at the big time — a tryout with British club Newcastle United. But he must find a way to pay for the trip to England.
Munez's pursuit of his dream comes at a personal cost. By leaving his father's business, it is as if he has slapped his father in the face. This plot turn is a bit forced, but it's handled, thankfully, without resorting to clichés or teary resolutions.
While in England, Santiago finds romance and dabbles in the partying lifestyle of fellow teammate and local star Gavin Harris (talented Alessandro Nivola, convincing as a playboy athlete). The two actors share a nice chemistry, and their unlikely friendship feels believable.
The rough-and-tumble sports scenes — especially the climactic goals in a couple of key games — are artfully shot and exciting. And the film's eclectic score is a nice counterpoint to the action. (Real soccer stars like David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane make cameo appearances.)
But the plot is formulaic and its conclusion rather abrupt, reinforcing the idea, as the title indicates, that sequels are in the offing. Let's hope that as the dream continues, some originality surfaces in this reliable underdog tale.