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Soccer star Santi continues his rags-to-pitches ascent in the second instalment of the football-based trilogy
More Billy the Fish than Roy of the Rovers, 2005's Goal! still managed to capture some of the excitement and drama of Premiership football. Admittedly, those are not words one automatically associates with Newcastle United, the top-flight club that Latino prodigy Santi (Becker) ended up playing for in Danny Cannon's original. Which probably explains why Goal! 2: Living The Dream finds him packed off to Spain to join a Real Madrid squad full to the gills with such feted superstars as Raul, Zidane and David Beckham.
A year is a long time in soccer, however, and the movie's unprecedented access to the Galacticos seems less impressive now that Zizou's retired and Becks has gone to America. But it's not just Goal! 2's resemblance to an out-of-date Panini sticker album that leaves it open to ridicule.
Having clearly surrendered script approval to FIFA in return for rare behind-the-scenes access, House Of Wax director Jaume Collet-Serra is obliged to depict Real in particular, and the beautiful game in general, in the kind of rosy, blemish-free hues usually reserved for political propaganda.
If Goal! 2 is to believed, the worst any Madrid player can expect is to be debagged in an elevator by Thomas Gravesen. Yes, the manager (Hauer) may be a stern, gruff tactician in the Arsene Wenger mould, but you can be sure he'll have some avuncular words of wisdom to impart when Santi's feeling blue. And should there be any of the debauched excess for which footballers are traditionally renowned, rest assured it will be safely confined to fictional Gazza proxy Gavin Harris (Nivola), the over-the-hill warhorse seeking one last payday on the Bernabeu turf.
To his credit, Nivola at least makes his skirt-chasing chancer a more appealing character than whiny Santi, whose shameless pursuit of material wealth blinds him to the needs of long-suffering girlfriend Roz (Friel) and the runaway mother against whom he holds a grudge (Pena).
When it comes to acting, though, no one can hold a candle to associate producer Steve McManaman, revealing a hitherto untapped gift for unintentional hilarity as one of Hauer's tracksuit-sporting flunkies. The scene where he pulls Becker away from a tunnel bust-up with the legendary "Leave it, Santi, he's not worth it!" is a high watermark in a film guaranteed to send any self-respecting footie fan into paroxyms of derisive laughter.
It's a game of two halves, and both of them suck in a flat-footed follow-up that doesn't bode well for the inevitable Goal! 3.
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