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Movie Review

The producers of Goal! The Dream Begins wondered why the globe's most popular sport, football (called soccer in the U.S.), hadn't been the focus of more and better movies. They decided to do something about it. And what better way to generate global appeal than to tell the story of a Mexican immigrant who lives in L.A. and travels to England for his shot at football glory?

Santiago Munez's no-nonsense dad has never seen him play soccer and views the sport as a distraction to his efforts to build a family pool-cleaning business. As undocumented immigrants just getting by, he doesn't want his sons to miss out on real opportunity by reaching for impossible dreams. So Pop's got no time for a former British football scout who sees Santiago's mad skills and wants him to travel to England to try out with the pro team Newcastle United. With the help of his grandmother, though, Santiago (who is of age at this point) finds a way to get around his dad and over the pond.

Once shoulder-to-shoulder with the pros, however, Santiago begins to wonder if his dad was right. Only the repeated championing of Glen Foy, a former player who believes in his talent, gives Santiago the courage and opportunity to keep trying. Even then, it often looks doubtful he'll be able to overcome his inexperience, asthma and cultural barriers to make it as a pro.

Of course, this isn't an in-depth drama about dreams not coming true. So expect good things to happen for Santiago with the support of his grandma and younger brother back home and the pretty team nurse who breaks her strict "no footballers" rule to fall for him.

Positive Elements

Santiago shows great commitment and willingness to sacrifice to achieve his "Goal!" He sticks out among the pro footballers for his humility, kindness and work ethic. Several people risk their own reputations to give Santiago multiple chances to demonstrate his talent. Santiago's positive example eventually convinces another player to cut back on his hard-partying lifestyle.

Santiago's dad has his issues (he illegally brought his family to the U.S., and he is harsh and domineering), but he does work hard to provide for and build a future for his sons. And he eventually changes his attitude toward his son; that knowledge helps Santiago to resolve internal conflicts about the man. Santiago's younger brother admires and listens to his responsible, hard-working bro. His grandmother supports him devotedly.

Also, Santiago's lie about a health issue—and his refusal to come clean—eventually reaps negative consequence for him, revealing the deception to be quite a foolish choice.

Spiritual Content

Santiago's L.A. coach credits God for the young man's skills. We see Santiago's family leaving church together on a Sunday morning. His Catholic grandmother says she promised God to do everything she could to help him follow his dreams and later says it's God's will for him to make a specific choice. When asked why he had to go all the way to England to play pro soccer, Santiago responds, "Ask the saints." He wears a religious medallion his grandmother gives him and delivers to Mr. Foy a gift from her of a Mary statuette. Both Santiago and his grandmother (along with several Newcastle fans) send up a prayer before his big play in the big match.

Sexual Content

Santiago gets drawn into the world of partying that surrounds wealthy pro athletes. Women are seen in revealing clothes hanging out around swimming pools, in night clubs and waking up in bed with a couple of the football stars. Also at a club, two men are seen dancing together. Santiago is seen in a misleading press photo with a bevy of scantily clad women. Later, he clutches and kisses his girlfriend in her apartment (the scene cuts before their passion gets the better of them).

Violent Content

Things get rough on the field, as vicious shots (legal and not) are thrown to knock players out of the way. One player's badly damaged knee is seen with ugly bruising. Another player forcefully prevents Santiago from using his inhaler while he's having an asthma attack.

Crude or Profane Language

Uttered in Spanish and printed in subtitles: the s-word and "h---." Spoken in one of its European variations: at least three uses of the s-word. Exclaimed in clear English and without a snicker: "Bullsnot!"

Drug and Alcohol Content

Santiago and his dad drink beers together in an L.A. pool hall. At clubs, parties and in the apartment Santiago shares with his playboy-teammate, alcohol consumption is the norm. When invited to hit some clubs with a teammate, Santiago asks what the drinking age is in England. He’s told it’s 11.

Other Negative Elements

Despite the current immigration debate that's washing across the U.S. (or possibly because of it), Santiago's family of illegal immigrants is presented matter-of-factly. The film opens on them sneaking through a hole in a chain-link fence with the U.S. Border Patrol in hot pursuit. Twelve years later, their status is still illegal.


I may not know much about soccer, but I know a good, old-fashioned Rocky plot when I see one. Goal! reaches for and pushes all those familiar sports-movie buttons in this pool-boy-to-global-sports-hero story. Despite the fact that its only original twist is that the football is black-and-white-and-round, fans of the sports genre, in general, and soccer, specifically, will find the old tune to be still plenty catchy.

Kuno Becker is likable and easy to root for as the budding soccer talent. Even when his unlikely rise seems a little too easy—and his second chances too frequent—I found myself wanting to see him make it because he's just so nice.

Fans of the pro game will likely also dig the authentic surroundings, as the filmmakers were given deep access to the Newcastle United organization (maybe I should spell that organisation), stadium and a few genuine soccer stars, even filming some scenes during actual contests. I can't speak to the authenticity of the action on the field, other than to say I was grateful they boiled the matches down to the scoring parts and left out the 90 minutes of players running back and forth.

In what areas does the ball thud out of bounds? Santiago's family's immigration status. Foul language. Implied premarital sex. And the thumping party scenes. How does Goal! score? With its core messages, which are loud, simple and broadly positive: "Dads, support your kids' dreams." "Kids, don't waste your best years partying." "Work hard, follow your dreams, and see what can happen."

ONLINE EDITOR'S NOTE: When Goal! was released on DVD, scenes edited out to obtain a PG theatrical rating were reinserted. So it bears the MPAA's original PG-13 assessment. Theatrical descriptors of "language, sexual situations and some thematic material including partying" are expanded to "some sexual content, language and a brief drug reference" for the DVD.

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