Dir:David Anspaugh. US. 2005. 101 mins.
This stunningly pedestrian sports movie tells the story ofthe rank outsider US football team and its surprise victory over England at the1950 World Cup in Brazil. Directed by sports movie veteran David Anspaugh (Hoosiers,Rudy) and boasting an impressive all-male cast, the film doesn't take a singlestep off the well-worn path these against-the-odds stories have followed fordecades. It is well-produced but groan-worthily banal.
Yetanother film from the wholesome stable of new movie mogul Phillip Anschutz, TheGame Of Their Lives could be madefor television. And that is where its home very soon will be. Internationalaudiences will not be sold on the notion of a US sports team as underdog, whiledomestic audiences used to a diet of heart-pounding baseball and (American)football pictures will be unimpressed by this stagnant episode in soccer lore.
Thedisappointment here is deepened by the waste of a strong cast. Scottishheartthrob du jour Gerard Butler is an appealingly solid lead, he is ablysupported by the talented Wes Bentley, absent from our screens since theequally drab The Four Feathers in 2002. There's even rock star Gavin Rossdale,who recently made an impression in Constantine, taking a role as English legend StanMortensen. That's not to mention some great character actors like PatrickStewart, John Rhys-Davies and Terry Kinney.
Butlerplays Frank Borghi, one of a group of avid players in soccer hotbed St Louis,Missouri, who are recruited to join the US team for the 1950 Brazil World Cup.The US has been invited to play but has a feeble budget and little standing onthe world stage and rallies together a motley team at the 11th hourconsisting of the St Louis recruits, Philadelphian Walter Bahr (Bentley), Haitian-bornNew Yorker Joe Gatjeans and other east coasters.
Theteam has an absurdly short 10-day training period in New York City in which theplayers learn to get along, although there are tensions between some of them,and get a taste of defeat at the hands of an all-star English team includingthe arrogant Mortensen.
Oncein Brazil, still without a team strip, staying in a second-rate hotel, the teamstruggles to keep its morale up, but when they fly out of Rio to play theEnglish team, they rally spectacularly and against all expectations, win 1-0.
Theactors do their best to invest their characters with flavour and nuance, buttheir efforts are futile in the face of overblown direction by Anspaugh and amusic score from Ross which is so grandiose that it wouldn't be out of place ina biblical epic.
Prodcos: Bristol Bay Productions inassociation with Peter Newman Productions/InterAL and Baldwin EntertainmentGroup.
USdist: IFC Films.
Int'lsales: Bristol Bay Productions.
Execprods: William J Immerman, GregJohnson
Prods:Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin,Ginger T Perkins, Peter Newman
Scr:Angelo Pizzo, from the book byGeoffrey Douglas
DoP:Johnny E Jensen
Proddes: Linda Burton
Ed:Bud Smith & Scott Smith.
Main cast: Gerard Butler, Wes Bentley, Patrick Stewart, JayRodan, Zachery Bryan, Gavin Rossdale, Costas Mandylor, Louis Mandylor, JohnRhys-Davies, Terry Kinney