The second installment in the Goal! trilogy is titled Goal II: Living the Dream, though Goal II: Fame’s a Bitch might be more appropriate. The movie doesn’t really pick up where the first one left off, with young Santiago Muñez (Kuno Becker) first achieving his dream of playing professional soccer. By the start of this film, Santi is already a plucky star for Newcastle United, he and his fiancée Roz (Anna Friel) are moving into a fancy new house, and Real Madrid are hankering to add him to their lineup.
The movie charts his ride through stardom and the toll it takes on him and those around him, including Roz and his friend and agent Glen (Stephen Dillane). Santi is no longer the rags to riches hero whom you want to see succeed but the hotshot jerk who deserves his comeuppance, and that puts a damper on the whole project. Living the dream consists of fast cars, wild parties, and flirty women, and it’s not long before Santi finds himself in Madrid, caught in a perfect storm of wealth and fame that threatens to blow him off course. He leaps from confident to arrogant to plain scornful, and the movie tempts you to bail on him just like some of his friends do.
The script unfortunately gives Becker little room to help Santi justify his bad behavior. It constructs of a string of tabloid moments that tear apart his personal and professional life but that offer no exploration into his actions or state of mind. He agrees to a transfer without consulting Roz and then expects her to shuttle back and forth between England and Spain. It doesn’t help that his reputation and good looks attract a crowd of female admirers, including a beautiful television reporter. Santi also seems to have forgotten his humble background and impulsively buys a cavernous mansion along with other pricey toys. Things finally come to a head when he punches a paparazzi photographer and gets tangled with the police.
Most of his fevered reactions seem perfunctory, as if only to push him further downhill, and few of these situations require Becker to act. One problem is that Santi is emotionally isolated from most of the characters. In the first film, his relationships with his family and friends provided him much needed ballast, but when that goes missing, he loses his grip and the audience loses its attachment. He rarely interacts with his coach and only meets with Glen a few times before blowing him off. Friel turns in a sensitive performance as Roz, but Santi talks over and around his girlfriend more than he talks with her. Even his friendship with Newcastle and Madrid teammate Gavin (Alessandro Nivola) doesn’t have much spark off-pitch. Nivola manages the most of his supporting role, however, as a star who finds himself being eclipsed by his friend.
The absence of Santi’s family, which fueled the first film, doesn’t help. Santi’s discovery of his missing mother (Elizabeth Peña) and a half-brother (Jorge Jurado) substitutes for his troubled relationship with his father, but he spends most of his time trying to avoid them. The movie belatedly finds its footing when he and his mother meet. They share a tender scene that fills out the family portrait, but it’s a relationship that gets buried under the dazzle of his celebrity.
Lost too is the excitement for soccer. Director Jaume Collet-Serra, taking over from Danny Cannon and known more for helming thrillers, inserts requisite on-field action and tries to mimic the high pace set by Cannon. He is somewhat successful in recreating the hyperreal atmosphere of a Real Madrid game, but here, Santi’s story is ultimately not one about soccer but about being a soccer star. The climactic match, while exciting, feels inconsequential. It lacks the emotional weight of a game one has been building up to for the last 100 minutes – that’s because no one, neither the characters nor the audience, has been waiting for it. Santi’s story is better than this, and we deserve something more, someone to root for.
Prod: Mike Jefferies, Matt Barrelle
Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer: Mike Jefferies, Adrian Butchart, Terry Loane
Cast: Kuno Becker, Alessandro Nivola, Anna Friel, Stephen Dillane, Elizabeth Peña, Jorge Jurado, Rutger Hauer, Leonor Varela, Frances Barber, Míriam Colón, Sean Pertwee, Nick Cannon
Time: 115 min
Lang: English, Spanish
Country: United Kingdom