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Goal! Review

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A young Mexican immigrant (Becker) spends his childhood in the barrios of LA, longing to play professional football. Years later, having been spotted by ex-agent Glen Foy (Dillane), Santiago suddenly finds his dream is within shooting distance — with a trial at Newcastle United FC…

★★★★★

Lately, it’s not been easy being an English footie fan. So, those mired in misery after recent results could do worse than turn to Danny Cannon’s latest, a sweet-natured football fairy tale played with heart, good humour and an irrepressible sense of fun.

Let’s be clear: the screenwriters leave no cliché untried as, Billy Elliot-style, young Santiago (newcomer Kuno Becker) battles a dad who won’t even countenance his ambition; fish-out-of-water antics and anxieties ensue as the Mexican-American struggles to adapt to the arcane habits and hostilities of England’s North-East; and ill health threatens to destroy Santy’s career before it’s begun. Will he triumph over adversity to make Newcastle’s first team? You’ll just have to go and see.

But cheese aside, where Goal! succeeds is in wittily drawn, Footballers Wives-style stereotypes (the cool-headed foreign manager, Alessandro Nivola’s playboy soccer star), lovely performances and a satisfying emotional arc. There’s also some exciting matchplay to enjoy, largely involving the Magpies and Liverpool, and the appearance of several soccer stars as themselves (Beckham, Zidane, Raul). It’s a warm tribute to the beautiful game that, for two hours at least, offers an escape from football’s — and life’s — harsher realities.

No points for originality, but Goal! scores three valuable stars for its warmth and wit.

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