Sunday, November 13, 2011

[DVD] Goal! III: Taking on the World (2009)

Watching From The Stands

When Goal debuted in 2005, it was that much awaited film about football that finally got made, and made properly, featuring some really nice visual effects that blended fictional players with the real world counterparts, and sanctioned by the sporting industry in general to allow the filmmakers unprecedented access to facilities and footage, not to mention changing the course of history at times through the manipulation of games and matches to swing it in favour of the characters. It's stuff of what fantasy football is made of as it comes to the big screen in gorgeous fashion.

Goal 1 tracked the rise of upcoming Mexican player Santiago Munez, who got lifted from the streets of the central american Mexico City into the English Premiership, signing for Newcastle United and being introduced to just about every struggle and shenanigan that comes associated with on pitch, and off pitch activities. Making his mark, he got earmarked for regional European competition as he got transfered to Real Madrid in Goal 2, where his exposure to the likes of the Galacticos made him quite the big headed player especially off the field, with his footballing skills raking him riches beyond his wildest dreams, and at the same time his character and morals fly toward bankruptcy.

Both films were fairly successful and appealed to footballing fans, making it to the big screen and a third film was mooted that tied and lead it logically to the third film to be on the sport's greatest stage, the World Cup. Alas here comes the problem from a narrative standpoint. Santiago Munez can only turn out for Mexico, and we all know, with all due respect, how far the national team can go when up against powerhouses from Europe and South America. No writer can alter the course of the character's history by making him turn out for Spain, or England, so that's that. And even then, what else is there to say about the Santiago character that hasn't already been covered in the first two films?

So with an obviously smaller budget, the attention moved from Santiago, which is a pity given Kuno Becker's screen charisma as a footballer, and onto his Real Madrid teammates (seen for the first time here, not featured in Part 2) Charlie Braithwaite (Leo Gregory) and Liam Adams (JJ Feild), both Englishmen - seriously, Real Madrid having two Englishmen in their ranks, and both strikers at that? - and since they're into the close of the season, have finally been told of their inclusion into Sven Goran Eriksson's squad. Then the other suspension of belief comes in the form of the three players all finding time to travel to Romania for Charlie's part time film career, where he meets up with the gorgeous actress Sophia Rossi (Kasia Smutniak) who naturally hooks up with him. And on and off you'll find the footballers, during the World Cup season, scooting off for some wining and dining, not that they can't, but I thought would be under more controlled circumstances since the weight of the country's expectations are on their shoulders. Still, I am in no better position to know what goes on behind the scenes for World Cup preparations, although the filmmakers did keep the paparazzi always close by for continuous photography opportunities each time the footballers step out of their comfort zones.

With Santiago so easily written out of the way in the World Cup by scribes Mike Jefferies and Piers Ashworth, the footballing focus falls onto Liam and Charlie's stint with the English team, whether they will make it to the starting eleven in Germany, or be relegated to the bench. Budget constraints automatically implied they started where they should, with stock footage of the actual English games taking precedence, with the likes of Rooney and Captain Beckham playing central roles. Which is a pity, because what made Goal fun, was the blend of fictional and real characters on the same pitch interacting as if it's for real, and this one had extremely limited pitch action, and when the characters do come on, it's as if they're playing on their own without much support from their real life counterparts, much less a whiff of recognition. And not to mention the very rough and raw visual effects when compared to what the first two films had done in this blending aspect.

So the rest of the film got stuffed with the dealing of the more emotional front of Liam, who through his agent Nick (Nick Moran) found his one time squeeze June (Anya Lahiri) and a daughter he never knew he had, and the romance between Charlie and Sophia. And in an effort to expand the film into the realm of the fans, follows a group of Englishmen going on the road into Germany to get themselves up close with the World Cup action, played more for slight comedy. If one were to take a step back, it's not a bad thing to have this film take on a much broader view on the sport in general rather than to follow Santiago Munez solely, but from the get go it felt like being thrown at the deep end of a pool with no returning characters (save for Munez's bit parts here and there) thereby alienating this film tremendously from its predecessors.

It's always a pity when you witness how films that embark on a franchise get to lose their way because of the lack of finances or making a follow up without a strong storyline. Granted that having to make the film in the same vein as the first two, and now gearing toward the largest stage of the sport will be something of a daunting task, but to pare it down to the bare minimum, what had made it fun for football fans to turn up in the cinemas for some fantasy football action, is what tanked this from a theatrical release, to a very quiet DVD release instead.

From the commentary and the interviews included you will still appreciate the constraints the filmmakers have to work around, and their belief in having made something that still worked, but with all due respect, if this was just another football film unassociated with Goal, it may have gotten a better response than to tag it after two films that had solid production values. It's likely Goal will call it a day now, but it's not all woe for football fans just yet, because if you're itching for some football on film, I will urge you to check out the very excellent The Damned United starring Michael Sheen.

The Region 2 DVD is part of a collection of the Goal! film trilogy by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, presenting the film in an anamorphic widescreen digital format, with audio in English Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are available in English, with scene selection over 12 chapters.

There are only two major extra features in the disc, the first being the Commentary by Director Andrew Morahan and Producer Mike Jefferies, and the next being a whopping 89 minute worth of Interviews with a play all option that you can listen in on the following talking about their roles, Goal 3, football and the World Cup in general: Cast members Leo Gregory, JJ Feild, Kuno Becker, Nick Moran, Kasia Smutniak, Anya Lahiri, Jack McBride & Mike Elliot, Christopher Fairbank & Craig Heaney, producer Mike Jefferies, director Andrew Morahan and Production Designer Russell De Rozario.

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