'Goal II' a cheesy soccer soap opera

JIM SLOTEK - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 5:40 AM ET

Who knew soccer was such an exciting sport? And so high-scoring? Why, in Goal II: Living the Dream, practically every time our hero or one of his teammates touches the ball, it's in the net.

A soap opera shot like an energy drink commercial, Goal II: Living the Dream is the followup to a more modest 2005 movie Goal, about a young Mexican emigre whose skill with the ball eventually lands him with Newcastle in the British Premier League.

As he signs with the legendary Real Madrid, the career of phenom Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) enters the stratosphere, and so does the larding-on of cinematic tricks appropriate to world-class TV sports hype.

Bullet time, pixellation, flashy graphics, slow-motion-sweat, all wrapped around a rather flimsy story about the kid from the barrio dealing with paparazzi, millions of fans and a salary in the millions of Euros.

Yes, it's a slightly anachronistic take on Real Madrid (David Beckham is still there for one thing), but this part of the movie -- in which our hero exchanges passes with the likes of Beckham, Ronaldo and Zidane -- is at least pretty seamless.

Indeed, the "footie" is far more believable than the plot, which sees the saintly "Santi" leave his nurse girlfriend back in Newcastle with a promise of fealty, which he (mostly) keeps.

But as movie-luck would have it, Madrid is also the home of Munez's real mother (Elizabeth Pena), who abandoned him as a child.

There she runs a bodega and tries to raise a delinquent son (Santiago's half-brother), accidentally letting slip the truth in an attempt to straighten him out.

As blandly played by Becker, Santi is a hero without any real edge.

Nonetheless, he has difficulty staying out of trouble, what with his half-brother (Jorge Jurado) taking his sports car on a joy-ride, paparazzi taking misleading pictures of him fending off the advances of a "groupie" TV hostess (Leonor Varela) and his best-friend/teammate, the over-the-hill Gavin Harris (a scene-stealing Alessandro Nivola) otherwise leading him astray.

Meanwhile, Rutger Hauer phones in his performance of the Real Madrid coach, stubbornly refusing to let Munez start, even though he scores every time he so much as looks at the ball (and even though his starter Harris apparently hasn't scored a goal since Pele).

Will Munez win a spot in the starting lineup? Will Real Madrid win the European club championship over the thugs from Arsenal? Will Santi straighten out his personal life?

The answers to some of these questions will be answered amid a spray of sweat, flashes of lights and dizzying changes of film speed. The rest will have to wait for the "three-quel" (yes friends, this is all part of a planned trilogy which ostensibly will see Munez play in the World Cup).

Or maybe he'll play his way down to Toronto FC.

They could use somebody who could score at all, let alone at will. And they'd still get to keep Beckham's name on the marquee.

(This film is rated PG)


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