Saturday, June 23, 2007

Goal II: Living The Dream

So Owen, The Bench Warm Enough?

Living the Dream? More like Living the Nightmare!

The first Goal movie brought plenty of cheers to football fans, who celebrated the coming of a decent movie about the beloved Beautiful Game. And it didn't disappoint, with a likable hero in Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) in a rags to riches story, nifty footwork and camerawork, locales familiar to English Premier League fans, the seamless combination of real world match footage with fictional shots taken on match days, and access to seldom seen areas in and around the stadiums.

The story of Santiago continues in this UK-Spain-Germany production, with the stage moving from England to Spain (and to Germany of course for the World Cup). With the first movie centered on the domestic football league following Newcastle's season, the sequel brings us to the Spanish La Liga, and firmly the spotlight of matches put on Europe's Champions League games. It's a no-brainer that German involvement will be of course the World Cup which just ended last year, and given that this sequel is delayed, you'd still get to see Real Madrid's ex-galacticos like Roberto Carlos, Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and Ronaldo, besides mainstayers like Iker Caillas and Raul Gonzalez, amongst others (see if you can spot McManaman!)

In a player swap deal with Michael Owen, we see Munez head to Real Madrid, in probably almost every footballer's dream to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world. And of course with hard nosed coach Rudi Van Der Merwe (Rutger Hauer) at the helm, our new recruit has to prove his worth before being handed some first team duties. But good friend and ex-Newcastle player Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola) is on hand at the club (reference the first movie shall we) to provide Munez some action, especially when Harris is running afoul with Rudi for his lost form.

The football sequences here are rather straightforward, and more of the same we saw in the first movie, save for some spectacular, probably CG-ed movies like the volleys, overhead kicks and diving headers. The number of matches being featured too is much less, as the story wanted to focus on our player's life outside of football.

You know, by putting all the press reports that you read day in day out of boozing, incessant partying, easy models who don't bat an eyelid looking to get between the sheets with the players, flashy sports cars, designer togs, mansions with numerous rooms, and the likes. Munez lives the dream in material wealth, although this starts to get into his head and takes a toil with his relationships, especially with girlfriend Roz (Anna Friel). There are numerous subplots put into Goal 2, but most times they are superficially touched upon for the sole purpose of covering the ground, and then forgotten conveniently, like the paparazzi photo-journalist, and various incidents on and off the pitch.

What I thought slowed the movie down further, was the injection of Munez's typical stepbrother brat from hell, and mother, who were conspicuously absent in the first movie, then reintroduced here just to amplify the moments that try to touch the heart (like in the first movie with the dad and grandmother), but one without which I feel would not make much of a difference. Couple this family reunion-reconciliation of sorts, together with his struggles with injury and attempts to shake off the "super-sub" tag, Munez has his hands full.

While the other real life players do not have much speaking lines (or none at all), you can't help but to feel both Kuno Becker and Alessandro Nivola being fish out of water in the Real Madrid dressing room, where either the charismatic players will undoubtedly get the audience attention with their antics or camaraderie which shines through, or clever editing and cinematography tells you that shots have been made with the clear exclusion of those players in some movie magic moments. The movie too seemed to like David Beckham, given plenty of scenes, befitting probably of his real last hurrah at the club before leaving them this summer.

And for Arsenal fans like myself, while it's a blast to see the team featured in this movie, and the likes of Jose Antonio Reyes (who incidentally played for Real Madrid few weeks ago and created then scored 2 crucial goals in their final league game to hand them the La Liga title), Robert Pires and a fictional TJ featured alongside our Captain Thierry Henry (don't leave!), the result is blasphemous as the last time we went head-on with Real, it was in the first knockout round 2 seasons ago where we triumphed 1-0.

So the scoreline at the end, well, it's actually living in the dream. Given that the ending is one of the technical worst that can happen, leading straight to the third installment, let's hope that the concluding chapter really does see the light of day. Not as polished as the first one with the novelty factor wearing off, but let's judge the series as a whole once the sequel screens. Excellent soundtrack once again, coupled with the usual product placement shots for Adidas.

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