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The Game Of Their Lives Review from ScreenDaily

Category: The Game of Their Lives Reviews
Article Date: April 25, 2005 | Publication: ScreenDaily.com | Author: Mike Goodridge
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Dir: David Anspaugh. US. 2005. 101 mins.

This stunningly pedestrian sports movie tells the story of the rank outsider US football team and its surprise victory over England at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. Directed by sports movie veteran David Anspaugh (Hoosiers, Rudy) and boasting an impressive all-male cast, the film doesn't take a single step off the well-worn path these against-the-odds stories have followed for decades. It is well-produced but groan-worthily banal.

Yet another film from the wholesome stable of new movie mogul Phillip Anschutz, The Game Of Their Lives could be made for television. And that is where its home very soon will be. International audiences will not be sold on the notion of a US sports team as underdog, while domestic audiences used to a diet of heart-pounding baseball and (American) football pictures will be unimpressed by this stagnant episode in soccer lore.

The disappointment here is deepened by the waste of a strong cast. Scottish heartthrob du jour Gerard Butler is an appealingly solid lead, he is ably supported by the talented Wes Bentley, absent from our screens since the equally drab The Four Feathers in 2002. There's even rock star Gavin Rossdale, who recently made an impression in Constantine, taking a role as English legend Stan Mortensen. That's not to mention some great character actors like Patrick Stewart, John Rhys-Davies and Terry Kinney.

Butler plays Frank Borghi, one of a group of avid players in soccer hotbed St Louis, Missouri, who are recruited to join the US team for the 1950 Brazil World Cup. The US has been invited to play but has a feeble budget and little standing on the world stage and rallies together a motley team at the 11th hour consisting of the St Louis recruits, Philadelphian Walter Bahr (Bentley), Haitian-born New Yorker Joe Gatjeans and other east coasters.

The team has an absurdly short 10-day training period in New York City in which the players learn to get along, although there are tensions between some of them, and get a taste of defeat at the hands of an all-star English team including the arrogant Mortensen.

Once in Brazil, still without a team strip, staying in a second-rate hotel, the team struggles to keep its morale up, but when they fly out of Rio to play the English team, they rally spectacularly and against all expectations, win 1-0.

The actors do their best to invest their characters with flavour and nuance, but their efforts are futile in the face of overblown direction by Anspaugh and a music score from Ross which is so grandiose that it wouldn't be out of place in a biblical epic.


Prod cos: Bristol Bay Productions in association with Peter Newman Productions/InterAL and Baldwin Entertainment Group.
US dist: IFC Films.
Int'l sales: Bristol Bay Productions.
Exec prods: William J Immerman, Greg Johnson
Prods: Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin, Ginger T Perkins, Peter Newman
Scr: Angelo Pizzo, from the book by Geoffrey Douglas
DoP: Johnny E Jensen
Prod des: Linda Burton
Ed: Bud Smith & Scott Smith.
Mus: William Ross.
Main cast: Gerard Butler, Wes Bentley, Patrick Stewart, Jay Rodan, Zachery Bryan, Gavin Rossdale, Costas Mandylor, Louis Mandylor, John Rhys-Davies, Terry Kinney

 


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