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Touchstone Home Video presents
Goal! The Dream Begins (2006)

"I love that game. Love football. Every night after school and Sundays after church, I'd play. All I hoped was that one day, football could be my whole life."
- Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker)

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: January 05, 2007

Stars: Kuno Becker, Alessandro Nivola, Anna Friel, Stephen Dillane
Other Stars: David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Raul, Alan Shearer, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Sean Pertwee, Tony Plana, Miriam Colon
Director: Danny Cannon

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content, language, brief drug reference
Run Time: 01h:58m:01s
Release Date: September 19, 2006
UPC: 786936700275
Genre: sports

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Goal! The Dream Begins is supposed to be the first in a trilogy of three movies charting the rise of a young Mexican-American soccer player from Los Angeles, as he scales the dizzy heights of the soccer world. I have to admit my interest in the films dipped when the original director, Michael Winterbottom, dropped out of the project. Turns out FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, wanted script approval in exchange for using real teams and players. Winterbottom, who makes politically-committed films, likely had no interest in churning out a soulless corporate shill like the film that resulted. That isn't to say the film is poorly made; it looks good enough, and the acting is fine. The film is simply a run-of-the-mill sports film, with all the cliches of the genre. But anyone expecting a glimpse into the real world of top class football will be disappointed.

Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) is an illegal immigrant living in LA; while playing in a local league soccer game, he is spotted by former Newcastle United player Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane), who arranges for Munez to get a try-out at his old club, providing he can raise the airfare. He does, and he finds the introduction to the Premiership much tougher than he would have imagined. Along the way, he falls in love, faces unconvinced, mean teammates, and befriends the star player, Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola). Will Munez be able to rise to the occasion in the big game? Need you ask?

I'm sure there are footie fans out there who have spent the time detailing the errors in presenting the world of soccer in this story. And it's true, there are some instances that the knowing fan will spot. More aggravating is the filmmakers' assumption that we will believe that some kid playing on a neighborhood team can just step into a Premiership side and be able to keep up (Never mind get a work permit, but that's something else entirely). Who are they kidding? Beyond most Americans, I mean, who won't know better. Much less that said kid will be able to hide his asthma (one of Santiago's hurdles to overcome) from the team. Players do take physicals before they sign, you know, and I find it hard to believe this would get by.

The movie is likable enough, especially if you're into "sports underdog against the odds" stories, which seem to be, well, almost all of them. Santiago is a good kid, though he doesn't so much triumph against the odds as have friends who keep convincing the manager (Marcel Iures, who seems partially modelled on Arsenal's Arsene Wenger) to give him another shot. Santiago really has no meaningful barriers in terms of his character; he's good to his teammates, always behaves in a respectful manner, and he's a all-around nice guy. Consequently, the script must place obstacles in his way that don't test him, but rather require further plot twists to enable him to move on. Santiago even gets work-shy partier Harris to give up his playboy ways and re-apply himself to the game, after one brief talking-to. The only friction Santiago encounters is from his father (Tony Plana), a man who firmly believes in societal class structures, yet still ambitious enough to start his own business. He treats Santiago like dirt, and it's a bit hard to believe when we find out he secretly goes to watch Santiago play after being nothing but scornful prior. The tie-up of this plotline gets wrapped up in a hurry at the end of the game, in a similarly unlikely fashion.

The film looks good if nothing else, with the on-field action blending actual Premiership league action with footage of the actors "playing" in the games. CG is used to usually good effect, though an early occasion of Santiago scoring a goal is noticeably phony-looking. My only problem with the game footage is something that probably couldn't be fixed; soccer is a game of rhythms, with each game taking on its own particular ebb and flow. The game footage here can't convey that feel; consequently, we simply see a classy highlights show, where we get the goals and a few misses, and some tackling to show how physical it is. And inserts of adidas gear, as they sponsor Newcastle's uniforms.

The second installment of the trilogy has already been shot, which sees Santiago get a transfer (in soccer, players almost never get traded to a new team, they get transferred, or sold, for a cash sum) to legendary Spanish giants Real Madrid (current home of dingbat David Beckham). My script prediction: No doubt this will be the very next season after the one seen in the first film, and Real Madrid will win the Champions League with Santiago scoring the winner, after a difficult season in which he must cope with newfound stardom, seeing him nearly give in to ego and the temptation of the high life, before he learns that commitment to the game, his teammates, and his faithful girlfriend must be his true calling. He'll probably learn this in a stirring speech from his grandmother on her deathbed. I came up with all that in the time it took me to type it. Hollywood, I have more just like it, give me a call. I'm free for Goal! 3: The Quickening.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Framed in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, the transfer is excellent, with crisp colors and detail. The subtitles for locations and games looks to be player-generated, rather than on the print, which was a bit odd. Subtitles are white and easily readable.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The English 5.1 track didn't seem especially vigorous to me, but it's a solid track, making decent use of the British pop music included on the soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Heart of the Game, Lost,
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Danny Cannon, writers Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Music video, Happy Mondays' "Playground Superstar"
Extras Review: A commentary with director Cannon and writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais starts things off. It's your typical track, with story background and filming anecdotes. Moving on, you can tell that at least one extra was made for Americans ignorant of soccer; titled Golden Moments of the FIFA Cup (00h:03m:27s), it showcases some great goals from the World Cup, which I suppose could be thought of as the "FIFA Cup," though no one has ever called it that in my knowledge. Anyway, diehard fans will likely have seen all these goals, but there are some great ones to see, like Maradona's run through the English squad in 1986, and Dennis Bergkamp's magnificent goal against Argentina in 1998, to name just two. There are a couple making of pieces, one which tries to do a bit of explaining about soccer to the unitiated (The Beautiful Game, 00h:06m:48s). The other, Behind the Pitch (00h:10m:38s), is a more traditional making of, including interviews with the principals. A music video for the Happy Mondays' "Playground Superstar" (00h:04m:02s) wraps things up, and it's unessential at best.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

If you like soccer and don't mind cliches, you may enjoy Goal! The Dream Begins, and those who enjoy the "committed athlete achieves his goals" (pun intended) story will as well. The film is wholly unremarkable however, and will likely vanish from your memory shortly thereafter. Regardless, the disc is solid, with a quality transfer and some unexceptional extras.


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