Hollywood and sport don’t really mix. Usually tied to moribund American football movies, involving some wrong-side-of-the-tracks team taken by an inspirational new coach to greatness, silver-screen endings and pro sports just don’t work. The underdogs almost never win in real life. For every Jerry Maguire, there’s a hundred Friday Night Lights.
Even so, Hollywood’s first foray into soccer, 2005s Goal! was at least a passable tale of a poor South American immigrant plucked from obscurity to experience the dizzying footballing highlife of, er, Newcastle United. While it was pretty clichd fare, Goal! had at least some semblance of reality. The sequel Goal 2!, has none of these redeeming features – it is an abysmal, corporate sales-pitch of a movie. You could write essays on the horrible, dead-eyed cynicism displayed here over two excruciating hours, rendering what’s left of the beautiful game – after Roman Abramovich chewed it up and spat it out – into a sanitised, Americanised bastardisation.
Here the aforementioned footballer, Santiago Munez, moves to Real Madrid, and becomes infatuated with the fast cars, flash houses and the even flasher women of the Spanish capital. He quickly begins single-handedly taking the team towards European Cup glory, before his efforts are derailed by the appearance of his long-lost mother and brother on the scene. Cue sendings-off, car crashes, drinking, shagging Spanish TV presenters and generally becoming a bit of a tosser: before a highly predictable redemption.
The plot may be bad, but it is the execution that is really reprehensible. Everything here is so openly selling football, and in particular Real Madrid, it’s actually almost funny – from the moment Santi’s boorish agent reminds him (veerrryyy slooowly) about how good Real are, to the moment he appears home from training with a ostentatiously Adidas-emblazoned rucksack full of free Adidas gifts for one and all.
At around two hours of gorging on huge houses, glamorous parties and new Ferraris, with only the occasional cursory ‘oh, but material things don’t matter’ moments, this is a soulless, vacuous experience. It’s like watching a Footballers Wives marathon, without the knowing satire. It’s impossible to feel sorry for this pampered moron, playing supposedly at the ‘best club in the world’, and by the end you’re dying for someone to put the boot in, emotionally and physically.
There are some unintentional laughs. Most are due to the simply diabolical performance of lead Kuno Becker, a Mexican soap star so ludicrously out of his depth you want someone to throw him a lifejacket. While he brings a certain quality of wide-eyed innocence to the role of Santi, it has little to do with his acting ability, and more to do with the fact that he simply doesn’t appear to be able to keep up with the increasingly bonkers script. Probably the best is saved for former England winger Steve McManaman, who keeps appearing wordlessly at coach Rutger Hauer’s shoulder looking worried: probably the funniest cameo since Barry from Eastenders in Extras.
Only ‘proper’ actors Stephen Dillane, Alessandro Nivola and Anna Friel can hold their heads up after this tragedy, all injecting a little life into their otherwise cardboard characters. But it would have taken a lot more than them to rescue Goal! 2. Avoid at all costs.