This trite soccer tale was sanctioned by FIFA which led to a directing change to Brit Danny Cannon. With the World Cup arriving next year, Goal! The Dream Begins aims to be an inspirational kick to fans, most notably in the U.S. Its game sequences have an adrenaline power to them, yet everything about it feels glossy and antiseptic despite a fairly wry sense of humor and an appealing widescreen look.
The protagonist is one Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker), a young Mexican illegally brought to the States and playing soccer in an LA area club, while his ill-tempered single dad (Tony Plana) toils at two jobs. He says Santiago is "chasing a stupid dream." His younger brother points out that a dream is winning the lottery.
A has-been player, now scout, Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane), knows that Santiago has serious potential. With the help of his loving grandma, Santiago is able to fly overseas to participate in a trial at Newcastle United in front of the German manager (Michel Iures). In a more unsuitable environment than he's used to, Santiago is given the opportunity to showcase his skills in the presence of stars like Alan Shearer.
It has to be said that Cannon is capable in depicting the passion of "football" in the cold, rainy Northeast England, perhaps better than approach to tennis in the fairly recent Wimbledon. A raucous, rather daft tone is established in a way to find favor with the ungratuitous and the offbeat as the "pitch" scenes are computer-enhanced and a double for Becker used during some of the intense action depicted.
Goal! just relies too much the stuff of fairy tales as it builds to the big game with a free kick turning out to be climactic. Becker projects a handsomeness, though his character is thinly veiled, and, at times, irritating and not bright. Especially when it comes to hiding something from the team that almost has him back on a flight to LA.
Better is the cocky star Gavin, embodied with the sport's flashy hedonism by Alessandro Nivola (quietly effective in Junebug). Gavin's narratively-devised character really is more inviting, especially in the second half, despite more screentime alotted to Becker.
Sean Pertwee figures into the growing contrivances as a self-serving agent, while Anna Friel is credible as Roz, Santiago or Santi's love interest nurse, and Gary Lewis (Joyeux Noel) as a gruff, but supportive coach. Lures is a surprisingly effective paternal, philosophical source of humanity in a picture that looks to broaden tourism to Newcastle.
Due to the nature of the production, some of the players aren't seen in celebratory shots, which isn't bad editing; it may be off-putting to some. And, a cameo by David Beckham seems to be more tacked on than authentic. Cannon creates better vistas outside the playing field when overlooking a bridge on the Tyne.
Goal! is packaged to show the conflicts of U.S. and British practicalities, but ends up corny propaganda rather than entertainment that has the ability to resonate with emotion. Maybe the next part of this trilogy will have more of the creativity that Santi brings to the Toon Army.