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U.S. shocks world at its own `Game'

Category: The Game of Their Lives Reviews
Article Date: April 22, 2005 | Publication: The Boston Herald | Author: Stephen Schaefer

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In ``The Game of Their Lives,'' a nostalgic soccer story about what is called ``the greatest upset in World Cup history,'' the United States is presented as an underachieving underdog.

To find a chapter of American history with Yanks as the come-from-behind little guys, the filmmakers had to go back to the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, a time when American soccer was in its infancy.

Using a flashback narrative device, ``The Game of Their Lives'' begins in the present day as an old codger (Patrick Stewart) tells his story as the only American reporter to follow the team on its remarkable journey from St. Louis to New York and on to Brazil. Much like a sports announcer might have in the days of radio, Stewart's mellifluous voice-over dominates the film.

Although Terry Kinney (``Oz'') plays the young reporter, it is Stewart's voice that cues the audience to the identities, strengths and personalities of the various players. Most importantly, his voice offers play-by-plays of the team's losing preliminary games prior to its unbelievable upset against the then-dominant English squad, which was led by one of the sport's all-time greats, Stanley Mortenson (a perfectly cast Gavin Rossdale).

What's clear is the official American attitude - embodied in the dour, do-nothing coach (John Rhys-Davies) - that this team can't possibly win, place or even show. The players are seen only as overseas ambassadors for the United States.

Standouts in the large cast are the charismatic Gerard Butler as goalkeeper Frank Borghi, Louis Mandylor as the hotheaded Gino and Wes Bentley, back after a lengthy disappearance following ``American Beauty,'' as the naval officer turned team captain Walter Bahr.

Director David Anspaugh (``Hoosiers'') has been here before. He had far more impressive results with 1993's ``Rudy,'' a tear-jerking underdog sports classic about Notre Dame's football team.

``The Game of Their Lives'' lacks the passion and emotional arcs that made ``Rudy'' soar, but in its workmanlike manner, it brings a forgotten chapter of sports history back into the spotlight.

(``The Game of Their Lives'' contains no objectionable elements.)


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