Goal II: Living the Dream

Starring Kuno Becker, Anna Friel, and Alessandro Nivola. Rated PG.

Fame can be a bitch. That’s the startling revelation offered in this handsome, empty-headed sequel to 2005’s Goal! in which we met Santiago Muñez (Kuno Becker), a savvy athlete who used his formidable soccer skills to escape smoggy Los Angeles for the cooler climes of Northern England.

When we catch up with our hero, he is still bringing goals to Newcastle and (as they say) living the dream with his nurse girlfriend (Anna Friel). She seems to enjoy his success the way Amy Winehouse likes rehab.

So when his contract is suddenly picked up by Real Madrid—where he’s to play alongside biggies like David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, and the various Ronaldos—you can imagine how thrilled she gets.

Santiago’s main connection to the new crowd is with a former teammate played by Alessandro Nivola, an Italian-American who specializes in portraying fair-haired Brits. Dramatically speaking, Nivola does the heavy lifting as his character copes with aging and other sports-world insecurities, while Becker’s rising star goes through the usual head-swelling thing.

The latter’s psyche is clouded by having been abandoned by a mother (Elizabeth Peña) who—wouldn’t you know it?—is also living in Madrid. Their much-anticipated final confrontation is a low-key master class in decent actors attempting to inject something personal into painfully underwritten dialogue that should have been avoided in the first place. (Screenwriter Mike Jefferies is one of the few constants in the trilogy of Goal movies aimed at soccer fans.)

Rutger Hauer is good as the team’s hard-ass coach, and Stephen Dillane provides nuance as Santiago’s troubled manager. It’s enjoyable to see how the actors were integrated into real games, using the latest technology and simpler tricks, but the overall effect is like catching a long match whose outcome was never in doubt—but still ends with the words “to be continued”.