Just as football has its Big Book of Clichés (it’s stored, so the legend goes, under the bed of Andy Townsend), so does the cinema and there are none more damning for a film than to go “straight to video” or “straight to DVD”. There are many reasons why the producers of a film may seek not to release a film in theatres and choose instead to just release them on DVD, but there is a reason for the derogatory connotations that the phrase carries, and this is that many of them are downright bloody dreadful. All of this brings us to “Goal! 3: Taking On The World”, the third part of a trilogy of films that attempted, yet again, to fuse together the twin cash cows of football and the cinema – with predictably underwhelming results.
The previous two “Goal!” films had been imbued, at least, with some sense of importance. Officially licensed by FIFA, with the heavyweight corporate backing of Adidas behind them (which explained the assistance of Newcastle United and Real Madrid in their making), they were lightweight but almost watchable – childrens films in adults clothing that hinted at what may or may not be the real lives of professional footballers but covered it in such a thick layer of gloss that it was all but invisible. With the third part of the trilogy, however, deteroration became decay, resulting in a dog’s dinner of a film with a scarcely-believable script, a ludicrous plot and with the action shots shifted from being live action (to the extent that any of the “action” in a football film can be described as “live”) to being shot in front of a blue screen.
So, where to begin? The first two films in the series had been based on the character Santiago Muñez, the son of a Mexican illegal immigrant in America, but “Santi” (as he came to be known by fans of the first two films) barely warrants a mention in the third. The film itself doesn’t explain why this should be – that the film was based around the 2006 World Cup and that England may have been considered a bigger box office draw (or a bigger bargain DVD bucket in a petrol station draw) than a story about the adventures of the Mexico team at the 2006 World Cup finals may have been a factor – and chooses to focus instead on two of his English team-mates from Real Madrid, Charlie Braithwaite and Liam Adams.
The scarcely-credible stuff starts within a couple of minutes with Adams not having his contract renewed by Real Madrid through the medium of a mobile phone call to his agent and without explanation. Within a further five minutes, they have managed “hilarious” jokes about Eastern Europeans, gyspies and dwarves. Within another five minutes, the instantly unlikable Braithwaite has managed to chat up a model/actress who, coincidentally, is a massive Real Madrid fan. And so it goes on, a curious mixture of sub-Hollyoaks plotlines and scripting, mixed with jokes that fall wide of the mark (“Mike Hunt” as the name on the clapperboard of a film in which Braithwaite is starring or, perhaps, the line, “Deutchsland? I thought we were going to Germany” – oh, hilarious), sentimentality so cloying that it is difficult to stifle a giggle when a car crash almost kills all of the main characters and blue screen technology that looks as if it was filmed as part of a sixth form drama project.
The film reaches what we can only presume was meant to be it climax with England’s progess at the 2006 World Cup finals. The blue screen is present and correct, but it’s cut with actual footage from the matches, meaning that we are forced to sit through the turgidity of England’s actual involvement in the tournament, only with a beyond absurd sub-plot concerning one of the characters collapsing and dying in the changing rooms before the team does a passable impersonation of him in the quarter-final against Portugal. This damp squib, however, is, it would appear, too much for even the directors of this film to be able to take, so a wedding is tacked onto the end of it to provide a happy ending, of sorts.
With a “12” certificate in the United Kingdom, occasional flashes of female flesh and unsubtle laddery, the film was presumably targetted at a teenage male audience, but it is an insult to their intelligence to suggest that such a vacuous script, unbelievable plot and lame humour would appeal to them. There is certainly a market for the world of the excesses of footballers but while the best known example of this sub-genre, Footballers Wives, revelled in its own ridiculousness, Goal! 3 flounders in it before drowning. Footballers Wives, just as some of the players do, was almost gloriously over the top in its betrayal of these excesses and, as a result of this, was highly adult in its content. Goal! 3, on the other hand, feels like an attempt to hint at this glamourous lifestyle without being able to come anywhere near to being able to get to grips with it for the fear of rendering it suitable for children.
It’s not always completely true, but the old adage of each film in any trilogy being exponentially worse than that which had immediately preceded it certainly applies in the case of the Goal! series. Every single scene in it could have been performed better than it was, and most of them are stultifying to the point of embarrassment. War references because the World Cup is being held in Germany? You got it. An apparently “humourous” sub-plot involving a group of Geordies travelling to the tournament which has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the film? Why not? A silent cameo for Mike Ashley, who manages to fill two-thirds of the screen, standing there, silent, impassive and a little creepy? Hell, yeah!
Perhaps, with its vacuous, instantly unlikeable stars who live in world in which ugly people don’t exist – except for the supporters: they are allowed to be ugly – Goal! 3 is an accurate representation of the modern football world, but whether it’s one that should be peddled to kids is a different matter altogether. Even allowing for this, though, the gaping holes in a plot that is wholly unbelievable even though the football side of it is based upon what actually happened during the 2006 World Cup, a script that manages the unique achievement of making its central characters – who we are supposed to like – utterly detestable and the appalling effects make for an absolute dirge of a film. Straight to video was too good for it. Goal! 3 should have been sent straight to the cutting room floor.
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