Made in: Great Britain, US
Language: English, Spanish
Directed by: Danny Cannon
Starring: Kuno Becker, Stephen Dillane, Alessandro Nivola, Tony Plana, Anna Friel, Marcel Lures, Miriam Colon
Year: 2005

Note: For American readers, the word 'football' means 'soccer' in this article.

Synopsis: This is pretty much a by-the-numbers underdog story. Santiago Muñez (Kuno Becker) is an illegal immigrant from Mexico living in L.A. He's a kid with big dreams, and wants to be a professional football player. He follows his love of the game, despite disapproval from his father (Tony Plana), who thinks life should just be about watering lawns, trimming hedges, and buying a new truck so he and Santiago can water lawns and trim hedges in different locations at the same time.

Santiago meets mentors along the way, such as Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane) a former scout and professional player. Glen convinces him to run off to England and try out for the professional team, Newcastle United. There, Santiago meets a girl (Anna Friel) and falls in love with her.

But then he runs into trouble. He has a hard time adjusting to the northeastern English weather and spends the first tryout falling down in the mud every few seconds. Some of the other players are mean too, and keep elbowing him in the head (as if this never happens in Mexico?)

And like other heroes, this one has weaknesses. In Santiago's case, he's asthmatic and doesn't like passing the ball. He gets kicked off the team, gets one more chance, makes the reserve roster, then gets kicked off the team again.

Then he comes back again after getting kicked off a few more times. He meets David Beckham, then just to keep the audience in suspense, gets kicked off the team once more. By the fourth or fifth last chance, he finally gets it right because he believes in himself, gets a new inhaler, and learns to pass to other strikers who are always open, on-sides, and miraculously only a mere 5 feet from the opposing team's net.

Remarks: Despite the fact that this is essentially a by-the-numbers underdog story, I admit that this movie was still pretty entertaining despite that fact that all goalkeepers were portrayed as incapable of saving a single ball. The sport choreography is exciting and well-executed, and the actors were generally good.

Alessandro Nivola does a good job as cocky Gavin Harris, one of Santiago's fellow players, who's as much as a pop star as he is a player. This can be taken as a jab at David Beckham, who, interestingly enough, has a cameo as himself. Other real-life football celebs appear as well, including Zinédine Zidane and Raúl Gonzalez of Real Madrid.

Kuno Becker, although a little stilted in terms of his acting, is a likeable protagonist. The cooperation on the part of Newcastle United and Real Madrid helped give this film a realistic feel, and shots of Newcastle's home stadium are quite exhilarating at times. Although predictable, Goal! moves at a good pace and has enough emotional depth to complement the anticipated action sequences.

Who would like this movie: Goal! is definitely for you if you're a football fan (particularly English Premiere League). Emotionally, it doesn't add much new to the genre, but it's a fun, harmless feel-good movie for sports enthusiasts. It is followed by the films Goal 2 and Goal 3.

(2 and 1/2 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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