Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Goal 2: Living the dream (2007)

Product placement movie

Once upon a time, the soccer movie could never quite stand up on its own; you had to tell it as part of a larger narrative - a WW2 Nazi prison escape movie (Escape to Victory), a kungfu parody (Shaolin Soccer), or even a second-generation immigrant culture clash comedy (Bend it like Beckham). In this light, Goal! represented soccer's very late entry into the realistic sports movie genre. Taking off where the first movie in the series left off, Goal 2 continues the bildungsroman of the football prodigy Santiago, and charts the next episode of his rags to riches story, his rise from obscurity in the streets of Mexico to global superstardom.

Here, after making his name winning games for Newcastle United, the talented Santiago is approached from the managers of Real Madrid and given an offer he cannot refuse - either for the sake of his career prospects, to validate his sense of really having arrived, or as a necessary plot point to push the protagonist along the obscurity to increasingly stratospheric levels of superstardom story. The formula that served the first Goal! movie is unchanged here - Goal 2: Living the dream alternates between scenes of soccer matches between Real Madrid and its various opponents with the dramatic angle of the story. This time round, though, the writing team appears to have crammed in an astonishing amount of sideplots and parallel stories, quite possibly succeeding in making the movie feel as cluttered as a Pirates film.

On one hand, we have Santiago's progression from gimmick signing to supersubstitute to a full member of the team, matched with his turn to be tempted by the glamorous party life of an A-list athlete; on the other, the up and down, on and off relationship with girlfriend Roz, and the introduction of his long-lost mother and half-siblings. While the first Goal! film meshed well its sports sequences and drama, the second movie doesn't do so well on this account, due to the large amount of multiple stories and concerns going on, all at the same time, all vying for precious screen time. The result, unsurprisingly, is that the multiple stories get very little screen time each, and the movie ends up looking as cliched as The Great Game.

Thankfully, the soccer footage is top notch, because of the director's decision to film almost all soccer sequences in film instead of simulated grainy television footage as is the fashion of most recent soccer films. As a result, there's this very odd but visually compelling presentation of soccer as a sport - and more importantly, a highly cinematic sport. Coupled with cameos by Madrid stars like Thierry Henry, David Beckham, Ronaldo, Zidane, and Raul, the soccer sequences of this movie are its high points.

I understand that Goal! 3 is currently in production. My hope for a worthy successor that will outshine both Goal! films are high, since the next director is none other than Michael Apted. Until then, though, we have to conend with the mixed bag that is Goal! 2.

First published at incinemas on 19 July 2007

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