Footy, eh? It’s just 22 honest lads stroking the ball around for two bob and a bootlace a week, before sharing a big old bath and heading home to their loving wives and... Oh, wake up. It’s not the ’50s anymore. Football these days is all about plush pads, Player-Cam and Page Three. Throwing us headfirst into that heavily branded, big business league is Danny Cannon’s Goal! – a heavily branded, big business movie aiming to turn football-and-cinema into more than a bad joke. His contemporary fable of Johnny Foreigner Santiago Munez (Becker) transforming from local LA hero to Premiership superstar in, ooh, about a month is as improbable as it sounds, but it’s so accurately designed for starstruck teen boys that such gripes miss the target. Goal! is a Roy Of The Rovers fairytale – think The Prince & Me for mid-teen lads in 45-quid kits.
As such, Goal!’s feverish piecing together of action featuring real players – Alan Shearer mullers Wayne Bridge, Titus Bramble wallops strikers, Stevie Gerrard frowns – will thrill. The FIFA-granted licenses mean that, unlike many football flick predecessors, Cannon can take his vamped-up, CSI-schooled, TV editing pizzazz, throw in an Oasis track and create sequences of fists-in-the-air excitement.
Alas, the live action is also the film’s David James – certain matches flitting between players and actors so much that when Liverpool play, they seem to have about 17 men on the pitch. Meanwhile, shots of Becker performing outlandish tricks (seemingly with another man’s legs) verge on the comical. Cannon’s starstruck, too – rolling out superfluous cameos from Galacticos, Sven and even Lee bloody Bowyer that, while amusing, end up distracting from Munez’s plight and leave us waiting for the next Shearer witticism instead.
Often laugh-out-loud funny (Nivola’s Craig Bellamy-alike cockney playboy is inspired), Goal!, despite a 10-minute worst-week-ever blip for Munez, is lightweight, predictable fare. How this stretches to the planned sequels (alas, not called Brace and Hat Trick) mystifies, but, for now, Goal! scrapes a victory.
Implausible, limited escapism... At the end of the day, Goal!'s kick-off is saved by its comic-strip charm - and David Beckham's winning smile.