Who's In It: Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Guillermo Fracella
The Basics: Two hick brothers from rural Mexico wind up in big bad Mexico City playing pro soccer (futbol if you're not a dumb American) on rival teams. "Rudo," so called for his brutal ways on the field, becomes a cokehead and compulsive gambler. Meanwhile "Cursi"--a nickname that he strongly protests but eventually gives in to--ultimately lets fame turn him into a national joke. Are you now having a hard time thinking about this as a gentle if somewhat downbeat and life-affirming comedy? Because that's what it's sort of striving for.
What's The Deal: If you saw Y Tu Mama Tambien then you know how appealingly buddy-buddy actors Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna are, kind of a Spanish-language Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau if those two played characters who were cuddly puppies instead of self-involved blowhards. Anyway, they take this shaggy little movie and keep you on their side even as their doomed football jock selves quick-climb the rickety, fragile fame stairs that you just know are going to give out beneath them, make every bad decision that presents itself, become self-indulgent jerks and then slide all the way back down to zero. In fact, the plot itself makes it unlike every inspiring sports movie from Hollywood because it allows for the idea of failure without permanent shame and misery.
Worth The Ticket Price For: The scene where musically untalented Cursi demands to be allowed to become a pop star in return for playing soccer so well. So he makes a music video, a Tejano version of Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me," accordions blazing.
Culture, Translated: Because the literal translation of the word cursi is "tacky" and "innappropriate," I knew it wasn't right. The slang definition helps: an overly romantic person whose actions reach the point of mushy corniness. Meanwhile, I also learned from this film that professional Mexican soccer teams are fond of raping new rookies in the locker room showers. But it's all in good fun. Or something like that.
For Sports Film Fans Who: Don't mind that there aren't many scenes of the sport actually being played, don't need come-from-behind third acts, and are okay with a steady tone of hapless pessimistic humor. In other words, no one who really likes those Goal! movies.