Goal! The Dream Begins

Opens at Lincoln Square and other theaters, Fri., May 12. Rated PG. 118 minutes.

There isn't a genre more clichéd than the sports flick, and Goal! doesn't fall far from the mold. It has all the core elements: the humble beginnings, a has-been mentor, the setback, the reluctant love interest, and, of course, THE BIG GAME. You go to a sports movie, you know what you're going to get—and it'll more often than not bore you to tears.

Not so with Goal!, a fascinating, smile-inducing trip through the world of English Premiere League football. Relating the tale of Santiago (the likable Kuno Becker) from humble beginnings in East L.A. to first-squad glory at Newcastle United, Goal! never oversteps good sense and gives sharp actors reliable parts to play. Marcel Iures as the avuncular team owner and Stephen Dillane as Santi's mentor are standouts. Alessandro Nivola (Junebug) has fun as Newcastle's resident superstar. Coming as it does just before the World Cup (with two sequels already in production), Goal! positions itself as the perfect primer for in-the-dark Americans on global football fervor. It's a great snapshot of the game abroad. Goal! is also the best soccer movie I can remember (granted, the main competition is that Caine-Stallone-Pelé chestnut, Victory!). It's old, feels new, and is done just right.

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