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Toon Talk: Goal! The Dream Begins
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by Kirby C. Holt
Goal! The Dream Begins
MPAA Rating: PG
Bend It Like Becker
Under the cover of night, a Mexican family illegally crosses the American border into California. No, this not another current events item on your local news show, but the beginning moments of Goal! The Dream Begins, the latest in the seemingly endless line of sports-themed movies from Walt Disney Pictures (opening in theaters today, under the Touchstone banner). But, unlike the mediocrity of this year's other such offerings (Glory Road, Stick It), Goal! achieves its goal of being a cheer-inducing winner.
The immigrant Munez family moves to Los Angeles, where the embittered father (played by Tony Plana) becomes a groundskeeper and the eldest son, Santiago (Kuno Becker), holds down two jobs to save up enough money to fulfill his dreams. What those dreams exactly are he's not quite clear on, but he knows it is not in his father's footsteps.
A natural on the soccer field, Santiago catches a glimmer of what his life could become when his playing catches the eye of visiting Englishman Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane, star of last year's best Disney sports film, The Greatest Game Ever Played, now on DVD). Glen is a former footballer himself, sidelined by an early career-ending injury, who sees in Santiago the raw talent and desire to succeed needed to become a professional football player - in England, that is. Glen promises Santiago to get him a try-out with the New Castle United Football Club - if he can make it to England.
After a conflict that creates an irreparable riff with his father, Santiago travels to the UK and, as the title states, his dream begins. Through several trials of culture clashing acclimation (such as learning to play in the mud) and drive-testing set backs (a health issue nearly sidelines him), Santiago makes it to the big leagues as a member of the New Castle reserve team. He befriends the starting team's newest star player, Gavin Harris (Junebug's Alessandro Nivola), a bad boy playa who gives Santi a taste of the downside of fame. But, with the support of team owner Erik Dornhelm (Layer Cake's Marcel Iures), Coach Braithwaite (Billy Elliot's dad, Gary Lewis) and potential love interest Roz (Anna Friel), Santiago manages to keep his head in the game, leading to victory and a (belated) reconciliation with his father.
(The film also features cameos by some of the hottest international football stars today, including Raul, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham, as in Bend It Like Beckham, see sidebar.)