Deep in the bowels of hell lies a section specially reserved for football movies, where the likes of When Saturday Comes, Mean Machine and Air Bud: World Pup are used as a toast rack by BeelzeBob (De Niro). Somehow Goal! managed to avoid a trip to the lake of fire, the tale of Santiago Munez – the Los Angeles immigrant who joins Newcastle Utd – being a cheerful dose of wish fulfilment, soundtracked by terrace favourites Oasis and Kasabian. The football sequences held up, and script polishers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (Porridge, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?) made good material out of the culture clash between the bright-eyed Californian kid and them ale-swilling native Geordies.
With Jaume Collet-Serra (House Of Wax) picking up the directorial reins from Danny Cannon, Goal! 2 finds Santiago (Kuno Becker) making the dream move to Real Madrid, but swiftly discovering that fame and fortune aren’t all that, pushing away his fiancée Ros (Anna Friel) and his agent. It’s The Empire Strikes Back of the Goal! trilogy, with the whining wunderkind Santi as Luke and Alessandro Nivola’s charming rogue Gavin Harris as Han Solo. There’s even a mystery over Santi’s parentage to resolve.
The problem with this analogy is, first, that Svennish Real Madrid boss Rutger Hauer doesn’t cut it as Yoda and, more importantly, Goal! 2 isn’t very good. A basic retread of first film – Santi rises, falls, learns, rises again – it now sorely misses the knowing sparkle of Clement and La Frenais. It’s also a bit of a stretch to sympathise with someone whose basic problem is that they’re extremely rich and loads of attractive women want to sleep with them. Bummer.
With its FIFA-approved mandate to promote the beautiful game, Goal! 2 is simply too chipper to linger on the darker side of the sport, preferring to zip along like Ronaldo (Cristiano that is, not the fat Brazilian) on the wing. You’re never too far away from another well-executed footie sequence, complete with real-life Bernabeu Galacticos like Beckham, Raul and Zidane running about, smirking as if it’s a Nike ad. If the earnest Becker doesn’t convince off the pitch, he certainly looks the picture on it. The concluding film in the trilogy will see Santi play in the World Cup. We’re going to take a wild stab in the dark here and assume that – after a momentary stumble – he ends up winning it.