The Miracle Match
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In the spirit of REMEMBER THE TITANS, MIRACLE, and THE ROOKIE, THE MIRACLE MATCH is the incredible story about the men behind one of the all-time greatest upsets in sports history. Two weeks before the 1950 World Cup, a ragtag group of recreational soccer players from St. Louis and New York were chosen to represent the USA in Brazil. Consumed with conflicts personal, cultural, and playing styles they had mere days to become a team. And then they had to play the British, the best team in the world. Inspired by a newfound belief in the team, their passion and talent turned into pure magic on the field and the unthinkable happened. Filled with heart-stopping action, and featuring Patrick Stewart, this triumphant story is a rousing celebration of the human spirit, love of the sport, and pride of country.
The writing-directing team of Angelo Pizzo and David Anspaugh tries to do for soccer what their films Hoosiers and Rudy did for, respectively, basketball and football. Here's another true story, a legendary upset in the early days of the World Cup. In 1950, America hastily forms a team to play against the world. We center on a tight Italian community in St. Louis providing the bulk of the national team. We meet GQ-ready stars led by goalie Frank Borgi (The Phantom of the Opera's Gerald Butler, deftly handling the duties). This brotherhood of players is unfortunately strapped to play off clichés and the movie never really engages us beyond the autumn-tinged scenery. A big part of the blame goes to the narrator telling us what we should be feeling (perhaps because we dumb Americans don't know soccer, er, football, like the rest of the world). No fault in the performance of the narrator/journalist (played by Patrick Stewart as the elder, Terry Kinney as the younger) or the rest of the cast. Perhaps the game is elusive to cinematic grandeur, (how many memorable soccer movies can you name?), but the movie is also tired and slow, something those earlier sports films were not. There's only a brief stirring when the earnest Gino (Louis Mandylor) has a wedding-date conflict and as the most famous English player of the day, Stanley Mortenson (Gavin Rossdale), patronizes the Americans in a public speech. Perhaps the studio knew they had a cellar dweller; the film was barely released and retitled for home video echoing the moniker of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Soccer kids will enjoy the film, but others better stick to Geoffrey Douglas's book, The Game of Their Lives, the film's original title (and mistakenly left on the end credits). --Doug Thomas
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The movie is done pretty well, letting you get to know the St Louis players (less so the Easterners), and showing what was needed to mold them all into a team. The soccer scenes are exciting - you truly understand why one character refers to soccer as the most democratic of sports.The end, with the title match, seems rushed, though, and I would have liked to see how the team dealt with the experience and what they'd learned about each other as well as the game. A wrap-around device with Sir Patrick Stewart as the St Louis sports journalist who covered the team is kind of a waste, though it's always good to see him.
The acting is generally good, with Gerald Butler as the Eastern goalie with some confidence issues, Wes Bentley (who actually plays soccer and organized a youth league in his hometown) as the Eastern team captain who needs to learn how to loosen up, Costas Mandylor as a St Louis player who 'treats every opponent as if he wants to send him to the hospital' and John Rhys-Davies, nearly unrecognizable, but wonderful as the Scotsman assigned to coach what he sees as a willing but ragtag team.
My son just played the game of his life scoring unbelievable goals and assisting in another during his High School Game yesterday, He said he couldn't stop thinking of the movie during the game.
He is the star on his team and the only sophomore on Varsity!