Monday, January 30, 2006

Real: The Movie

Goal! probably gave football fans a reason to cheer that there is finally a movie worthy of the sport, nevermind the teams that were featured in it. It got the right moments of excitement, joy, trials and tribulations that most football fans could identify with in players and their clubs. However, Real: The Movie takes the genre two steps backwards, even though you know it's like a congratulatory pat on the back of the club itself.

Partly produced by Real Madrid CF, Real attempts to weave fictional narratives into a plot which glorifies its players (not that it does a good job anyway), and also to point to the fact that it is the most successful, recognizable football club in the world, with fans all over the place, able to connect with one another through the club's sporting ambitions.

The first narrative is that of a school teacher who arrived in Madrid, and staying a stone's throw away from the revered 80,000 seater Santiago Bernabéu stadium. He's like the chorus, trying to sniff out the reasons why Real Madrid permeates through the life of the city, and are worshipped by crazed fans.

Then there's Tokyo, which is hot on the heels of Beckham-mania, with the story putting focus on the relationship between a teenage couple interrupted by the girl's fixation on Beckham. Relatively short, and not much meaning to it. If you dislike Beckham, you'll probably puke at the various shots of his mug upclose.

Speaking of Beckham, there is a narrative thread which copies Bend It Like Beckham, having feature a teenage female footballer from New York. We follow the story of Megan, a hotshot footballer who suffers a career-threatening injury. The reason why this plot line is included, is to tie it into Ronaldo's comeback from injury. But the execution is weak, and we see probably the worst piece of acting from an eye-candy.

Perhaps the best story is that set in Senegal. We see upclose how remote villagers experience the events of a football game, by having the dad travel on foot for a total of 4 days, round trip, to watch the game on television, and return to the village to recount everything he saw to wide-eyed children. This is perhaps the most heartwarming of it all, one which demonstrates a father's love for his child.

And on a similar premise, and the weakest, is that set in a Venezulean town, about a young boy and a strange old man who happens to be quite a footballer himself. At the end of the day, it's nothing much except for a community sitting down together, supporting different teams, one camp Real Madrid, the other camp Barcelona.

With of course, the expected build up to the huge game of the movie, that of arch-rivals Barcelona of course. However, this is no Goal! with fictional figures inserted into the game. Rather, it's like watching a re-run of the season 04-05 game on a large screen, with dramatic moments only, which they won (naturally) 4-2.

The separate narratives are, well, separate. Which makes it seem like little short stories stuck together. Though there are some redeeming features, like the little nugget of facts done Hitchhiker's style, and a behind-the-scenes look at how the large club prepares itself for games with its meticulous planning. For those who have not been to the stadium, we're also granted a sneak peak into the high tech locale, but unlike Goal!, we didn't see the entire dressing room.

In case you're wondering if this review is biased as I'm an Arsenal fan, no. If you don't believe me, don't tell me that you've wasted time and money watching this. If anything, this movie is suitable only for Real Madrid fans only, not football fans in general.

And for that, I'd wish the Gunners win the home and away legs of the Champions League against the Galacticos come Feb/March. Go Gunners! And hang in there for the sequel to Goal! set in erm, Real Madrid.

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