By Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Goal II: Living the Dream3 stars out of five
Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Kuno Becker, Alessandro Nivola, Anna Friel,
Stephen Dillane, Rutger Hauer, David Beckham
Sports movies, and particularly those tackling soccer, have gained a reputation for being formulaic and predictable--though this didn't stop 1981's Escape to Victory from becoming a cult classic, or Bend It Like Beckham earning a BAFTA nomination in 2003.
The first Goal film did not disappoint in this respect with Santiago Nunez (Kuno Becker), a Mexican living and working illegally in Los Angeles, discovered by a former English Premier league soccer scout and whisked away to the relative glamour of Newcastle United in northeast England.
The story ends on a positive note, with Nunez, the new hero of Tyneside, seemingly settled with Roz (Anna Friel), a down-to-earth Geordie lass more interested in passing her nursing exams than watching her fiance make pinpoint passes.
Goal II follows the same storyline, but now Nunez is playing for legendary Spanish powerhouse, Real Madrid. So while Goal was a classic rags-to-riches story, one of the drawbacks of the sequel is that it's more of a tale of riches-to-more riches.
At times, the screenplay is a little melodramatic, with a subplot involving Nunez's long-lost mother and newly discovered brother, Enrique, that is straight out of a soap opera. The innocence of Enrique's kickabouts on the dustbowl pitches of working-class Madrid is juxtaposed with the luxury and sophistication of Real's training ground.
One irritating cliche for British viewers is the repeated depiction of Roz toiling away back home in Newcastle in what seems to be monsoon conditions, while the sun seems to constantly shine on Madrid. Having spent five years in northeast England I think I saw more rain fall on this area during this movie than I experienced in any one year living there.
By joining former Newcastle teammate Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola) at the Bernabeu Stadium, Nunez has an instant ally and mentor, but Harris is facing a crisis of confidence as a Galactico, and their relationship becomes strained as the possibility that Nunez may pose a threat to Harris' place in the team gains ground.
Harris' problems are compounded when he loses his house after an investment in a vineyard goes pear-shaped, though the idea of a footballer on 80,000 pounds (158,000 dollars) per week having to crash out at his teammate's (Nunez) house is hard to believe.
It's not the only time in the film where credibility is stretched to breaking point. A car chase involving Nunez's Lamborghini Spider, with his kid brother at the steering wheel--and barely able to peer over the dashboard--and a taxi driver was plainly ridiculous and unnecessary.
The scenes from Champions League games work well, and the "acting" by the Real Madrid superstars is surprisingly unleaden, though the writers wisely stopped short of giving most of them speaking roles.
Messrs Beckham, Zidane, Robinho, Raul and Ronaldo all manage to look natural in front of the camera while Rutger Hauer gives a solid performance as Real Madrid coach Rudi Van Der Merwe without needing to try too hard.
Like its predecessor, Goal II succeeds in conveying the excitement and passion of the game and though most filmgoers will have a good idea of the movie's outcome, that should not spoil your enjoyment of the movie and Collet-Serra's climax combining the drama of two recent European finals will revive fond memories for followers of two clubs from northwest England.
Goal was a fresh approach to soccer movies and proved a winner. Goal II finds the team earning a score draw. The final part of the trilogy, Goal III, is scheduled for release next year, and it will be interesting to see what kind of grandstand finish the film's producers are preparing for our young Mexican hero.
The movie opens today.