Film history dictates that when it comes to sports movies the quintessential story is that of an underdog team or athlete going through all kinds of adversities to finally learn a lesson or win a trophy. It can be about soccer (Shaolin Soccer), basketball (Space Jam) or baseball (Moneyball) and work from that same premise.
Juan José Campanella's Foosball (original title: Metegol) is a new entry in the long list of sports movies about underdogs yet it's not always about soccer or foosball. For a third of its time, Foosball acts as an adventure movie with fantasy and a plot that places the hero (a young boy named Amadeo) trying to rescue his best friends from the hands of a powerful villain. If this sounds a bit familiar is because Foosball offers what we have already seen countless times in kids movies, forgetting about its distinctive elements.
On the paper, one of the most interesting things about Foosball is its Argentinean origin as one can hope for a great representation of the passion they have for soccer and the popularity of foosball. This table game is a real tradition in Mexico as well and I can't think in another animated film that portraits it, which makes Foosball unique if only for some moments. Campanella and the talented animators bring some movie magic to the game, making possible the impossible, and a dose of nostalgia too.
The movie opens with Amadeo, now a grown man with a son who's not really into foosball since playing soccer video games on a tablet is the new deal. The first theme is that of technology replacing old habits and soon the movie becomes a nostalgic look at Amadeo's childhood: he was the ultimate foosball champion and his team could dominate the ball and do impossible plays, but nonetheless Amadeo was an insecure kid, never getting along with the cool athletic boys and eventually becoming too attached to the table football game.
This little, homegrown tale all of the sudden gets huge, involving Amadeo's complete town, and really a whole different movie begins. It becomes an unpolished, average thing, so you better forget about soccer, foosball, the nostalgic element or the potential character conflicts; it's all about the villain Grosso threatening the town's safety because once he was beaten by Amadeo in a foosball game.
Somewhere in the middle of all this there's the main attraction of the whole movie: foosball players coming to life (some of them with a seventies, Mario Kempes-inspired look). It doesn't go into new territory (Ratatouille comes to mind when Amadeo realizes something weird happened to his players, for example) but there are a couple of interesting concepts (rival foosballers sharing memories) and the general tone should be amusing for children. The problem is that there's always too much noise around these characters and ultimately, when Campanella abruptly remembers that there must be something about soccer in the movie, they become invisible (both literally and figuratively).
Foosball is three different movies put together poorly and it leaved me thinking a simpler story, with a message for the kiddies included, could have worked better. The animation, though, stands as a remarkable if imperfect achievement for a non-Hollywood production.
Foosball is currently playing in Mexican cinemas.