Dir: David Serrano. Spain. 2003. 118mins.

There should be much interest in Football Days (Dias De Futbol) at the upcoming MIFED market, considering the film's breakneck climb up the Spanish box office chart and the cast and crew repeats from last year's biggest local box office hit and hot international seller, The Other Side Of The Bed (El Otro Lado De La Cama). Football Days became the second highest grossing local film this year in less than four weeks on release through Buena Vista, and continues pulling in about 200,000 spectators per weekend. But excluding Latin America, this audience draw will be hard to duplicate in countries where the actors are largely unknown and football holds less cultural sway. And barring these elements, Football Days has little to recommend it.

Like The Other Side Of The Bed, Days follows in the recent trend of Spanish films and TV shows aimed at twenty- and thirty-something audiences nostalgic for the cultural trappings of their youth. Where Bed adapted popular songs from the 1970s and 1980s, Days captures the demographic's fear of growing older and positions football as the great unifier. It is a savvy marketing ploy on the part of the film's backers - also behind Bed and recent retro hit Torremolinos 73 - and a salute to David Serrano, scripter of both Bed and Days who makes his directorial debut here.

But Serrano relies too heavily on the humour of this original idea, slinging together a script which seems to serve only as a pretext for a series of gags and one-liners. These are not exactly fine comedy either - slapstick high-jinks include sticking pins in the bums of a rival football team, contracting an itchy venereal disease from prostitutes or training a pig for a film role. The cast of popular local actors do their best with the material at hand, with leads Alterio and especially San Juan standing out.

Antonio (Alterio), a short-tempered petty criminal whose recent stint in jail has convinced him to go into psychiatry, has a hard time adjusting to life outside of prison despite the support of his childhood friends, including lovestruck loser Jorge (San Juan), folk-singing cop Miguel (Bermejo) strong-man Ramon (Alamo), wannabe actor Charlie (Ponce) and the still-living-at-home Gonzalo (de la Rosa). Their girlfriends and wives (including Verbeke and Esteve) have one of two options: continue suffering their adolescent foibles or move on before it is too late.

Trying to recapture the only victory they ever tasted, Antonio proposes they bring back the football team of their youth. The friends agree out of concern for his mental health. Despite the help of Antonio's oily prison buddy Serafin (Tejero), the results are less than glorious.

Bed got by on the originality and quirkiness of its song-and-dance numbers and the charming sincerity of its characters. Days boasts neither: the repeated mishaps of its purposefully dull-witted and self-interested cast evoke little sympathy and a lack of meaningful romance ultimately undermines any interest the kiss-and-make-up finale could have elicited.

Prod cos: Telespan 2000, Estudios Picasso
Int'l sales:
Sp dist:
Buena Vista International
Tomas Cimedevilla
Exec prods:
Tomas Cimedevilla, Ghislain Barrois, Jose Herrero de Egana
Kiko de la Rica
Miguel Malla
Art dir:
Beatriz San Juan
Rori Sainz de Rozas
Main cast: Ernesto Alterio, Alberto San Juan, Natalia Verbeke, Maria Esteve, Fernando Tejero, Pere Ponce, Nathalie Poza, Secun de la Rosa, Roberto Alamo, Luis Bermejo, Pilar Castro