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Todd & I are always bouncing ideas around for regular features for the blog and since we're both really into movies, we figured we'd start a feature called Roll Bama Roll at the Movies where we review sports related movies (whether old classics, new ones in the theater or obscure ones...or crappy ones for that matter.) Despite the fact that most sports movies are bloated cliché-fests, it still seems like something fun to do (and there are some pretty good ones out there.) I'm going to kick the series off (no pun intended) with a 2005 soccer movie called Goal! The Dream Begins

Goal! The Dream Begins is the first part of an ambitious trilogy following the life and times of Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker), an illegal immigrant to the USA (from Mexico.) Santiago loved playing soccer as a boy and a soccer ball is one of the few possessions he carried with him when his family crossed the border in the middle of the night. Things are quickly fast-forwarded and we see Santiago as a young man in Los Angeles working as a landscaper and a busboy in a Chinese restaurant who plays recreational league soccer in the little bit of spare time that he has.

Just like dozens of sports movies before it, Goal! The Dream Begins asks you to suspend disbelief to an incredible degree. There are so many so many obstacles for him to overcome in the next 90 minutes of the movie that it's impossible to think one person could conquer 2-3 of them in a short period of time, much less get past all of them.

We're asked to believe that Santiago would take off to England (spending his own money) to have a tryout with Newcastle United based on the word of a guy he bumped into at a park watching one of his recreational league games. Never mind the fact that Santiago would never be able to get a work permit to play soccer in England as someone from a non-European Union country since he hasn't played regularly for his national team. Ignore the fact that he's given chance after chance after chance to prove himself with the team's manager despite being a complete unknown.

Despite those issues (and several others), I liked this movie. Everybody wants to believe that the underdog from the barrio can rise to the heights of English soccer with some hard work and a little luck and eventually score the goal that qualifies them for Champions League play. Not only does he live the underdog dream, but Santiago gets the girl (an English nurse), befriends and bestows wisdom on the out-of-control partying star player for the team and even eventually makes his hard-headed and down to earth father proud of him.

The clichés are bountiful and the improbability of the story is overwhelming, but there's something about Goal! The Dream Begins that endears itself to you. It's the underdog story, the fact that Santiago is such a likable guy, the fact that you want to see good people rewarded and you want to see hard work pay off, the fact that you want to see someone remain true to their roots and be level-headed despite tasting impossible success.

Tons of cameos in the movie as well: David Beckahm, Zinedine Zidane, Raul, Alan Shearer, etc. Pretty good soundtrack: Oasis, Kasabian, etc. Not brilliant cinema by any means, but definitely inspiring (even if a bit over sentimental) stuff. Part 2 is supposed to come out later this year and Part 3 is currently being filmed.