Dir: John Hay. UK. 2000. 105 mins.
Prod co: Sarah Radclyffe Productions, Impact Films. Co-prods: Arts Council, Le Studio Canal Plus. Domestic dist: Pathe. Int'l Sales: Pathe (001 310 247 4747). Exec prods: Alexis Lloyd, Andrea Calderwood, Bill Godfrey. Prods: Sarah Radclyffe, Jeremy Bolt, Alison Jackson. Scr: Simon Mayle, Hay, Rik Carmichael. DoP: John de Borman. Prod des: Michael Carlin. Ed: Oral Norrie Ottey. Music: Simon Boswell, Alex James. Main cast: Robert Carlyle, Gina McKee, Ray Winstone, Lewis McKenzie, Jane Lapotaire, Ben Miller.
There's Only One Jimmy Grimble is a replay of any number of inspirational coming-of-age sports sagas, albeit directed and performed with considerable zest and humour - enough, even, to get away with such cheeky cliches as the last-minute winning goal. Released in Britain on August 25 (after a world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival) to coincide with the debut of the football season, this likeable picture offers something for both male soccer fans and their female partners in search of alternatives to summer blockbusters. Box-office is unlikely to be major league, and international prospects look less assured, though small-screen play-offs beckon further down the line.
Fifteen-year-old Jimmy (McKenzie) is a gifted footballer living in Manchester, Northern England, whose success, both on the playing field and in the dating game, are constantly thwarted by peer-group bullying and his own chronic shyness. But his self-confidence gets a sudden boost after he acquires a pair of ancient and apparently magical boots from a mysterious female tramp (Lapotaire).
These seem to render him invincible and, led by Carlyle's hangdog sports instructor, the school's rag-tag team starts to rise to the top of the junior cup league. However Jimmy's achievements excite the envy of a schoolmate, who plans to divest him of his footwear, and he's under further pressure at home when his single mother (McKee) acquires a dodgy new boyfriend (Miller).
Backed by a strong cast of experienced British pros, McKenzie is enormously engaging as the jug-eared lad whose droll comic presence and extended voice-over commentary are called upon to carry the movie. But the script takes its eye off the ball after half-time, with a distracting detour into McKee's romantic misadventures. Technical credits are solid, though there is a slightly over-insistent use of incidental music and the Mancunian regional accents may represent a difficulty in some overseas markets.