A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this soccer drama includes racial tension, and characters use derogatory phrases about one another's culture (including "dago," "kraut," and "voodoo-hound"). There is some whistling at and ogling of women, but the men are mostly respectful of the women in their lives. The final match includes some emotional intensity that may be too stressful for young viewers. The message here is positive: Believe in yourself, and you will achieve greatness.
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What's the story?
THE MIRACLE MATCH tells the story of the harrowing 1950 World Cup match between a rag-tag group of Americans and the British squad, which was then the best team in the world. The film starts in St. Louis' Italian-American enclave The Hill. Frank Borghi (Gerard Butler), Frank "Pee Wee" Wallace (Jay Rodan), and Charlie "Gloves" Colombo (Costas Mandylor) form the center of the neighborhood's pick-up soccer league. When it's announced that try-outs for the U.S. World Cup soccer team will be held in St. Louis, the guys are excited and scared. They don't want to humiliate themselves by losing, but they're also excited at the prospect of playing and winning the game that's so important in their lives.
Is it any good?
Unfortunately, like so much in this patina-covered film, The Miracle Match lays on the patriotism thick and heavy, smothering it. The whole thing is designed to make you cry with sentiment. Instead, it becomes schlocky fast. There's the patriotism. There's the ad-naseum speeches about the virtues of the game. ("It's the most democratic of games," intones Patrick Stewart as Dent McSkimming. "It's the people's game. It's your people's game.") There are the repeated lectures to believe in themselves. While the movie beats you over the head with these ideologies, it simultaneously sucks the life out of the film and makes it just about the game instead of about the guys who played it.
It doesn't help that the script makes no pretense of tension about whether the guys will make the World Cup team. There are cursory conflicts -- Frank is set to be married the week of the tournament, and another player is scared of flying -- but those are resolved quickly, and so most of the film feels like the pre-game show until the big match. Without that tension, there's no point in watching to the end -- which is a shame, because that's where The Miracle Match gets it really right. The final game is a doozy -- well-paced and fabulously filmed, with a surprise cameo by Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale. And when at the end the real-life players appear, a la A League of Their Own, darn if viewers won't find themselves shedding a tear or two. But the poor writing and character development make this a film only for die-hard soccer fans who want to know about the history of the game in the U.S.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how each family member pursues his or her dreams. What do you do when you feel discouraged? How did Frank, Walter, Pee Wee, and the gang handle disappointments? This is also a good opportunity to talk to kids about racial and cultural slurs and tolerance. How did Joe and Frank work out their religious differences?
- In theaters: September 20, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: September 12, 2006
- Cast: Gavin Rossdale, Gerard Butler, Patrick Stewart
- Director: David Anspaugh
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic intensity.
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