By contributing blogger Benjamín Harguindey
The Three Manias (Los tres berretines, 1933), one of Argentina’s first talkies, immortalized football, tango and cinema as Argentines’ key fetishes. Tango and cinema have given much to talk about at the movies, but curiously enough football remains untapped in the big screen, as far as recent memory goes. Just where is our football epic?
Foosball (Metegol, 2013), Juan José Campanella’s new film, takes over the spot after nearly six years of production. It’s not exactly Argentina’s first computer-animated movie, and it’s not exactly its first 3D movie either, but its sheer size and budget are set out to rank it high in the history of Argentine cinema, even though for all its technical prowess, no moment replicates the sense of astonishment we got from the insta-famous tracking shot out of Campanella’s previous The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos, 2009).
The movie’s had a winning streak since its release on July 18th, grossing $67 million and, with about 1.700.000 spectators, becoming not only the most watched Argentine movie of the year, but in the history of Argentine cinema, up there with Campanella’s “Eyes” and his Son of the Bride (El hijo de la novia, 2001).
Campanella’s remained cautiously optimistic nonetheless, stating at a press conference held at Hoyts Abasto on July 11th that, with a 20 million dollar budget, “all of Argentina could go see the movie twice, and still we wouldn’t recoup the money”. Campanella also claimed in this conference “I know squat about football” (the reason for which he hired Eduardo Sacheri as his screenwriter), flaming one sports journalist to comment that “there are times in the movie where the football play is pretty bad”. The criticism left Campanella speechless and watery-eyed, prompting actor Fabián Gianola (voice of “Beto”) to counter with a collected tirade about “unity making strength” and contrasting underdog passion with the frivolity of sports celebrities. Cue much applause.
Campanella’s obviously counting on its international tour, which began August 20th as the opening act of the San Sebastián Film Festival (Spain’s factored as a co-producing country and the film will be commercially released over there on December 20th) and carries out throughout the rest of the year in over 70 countries, where it’ll be dubbed either to “neutral Spanish” (i.e. Mexican) or Australian.
Set in an idyllic little town, the plot concerns Amadeo, a shy young man with a cheery high school sweetheart and an obsession with foosball and its miniature players, whom he’s gone to name and customize over the past few decades. An old rival of his returns as an airheaded football pro with the deeds to the town and a thirst for revenge over the one foosball game he once lost to Amadeo. Is is here that Amadeo’s toy players spring to life to help him out win the game of a lifetime, in which the town – and Amadeo’s self-confidence – are at stake.
Foosball looks and sounds much like a DreamWorks knock-off, and comparisons to the Toy Story saga become inevitable as our miniature action men leap and dash across the oversized landscape. Then again, for all intents and purposes, this has been Campanella’s vision all along: a local production to blend seamlessly among the classier Pixar giants. As he puts it, “we too can make animated films”. Foosball’s biggest criticism might be its glaring lack of identity, as it mimics a Disney-ish animation style and nabs tired pop culture gags by the truckload (like cuing Ennio Morricone’s whistling trademark over a stand-off, or playing Ride of the Valkyries over a posse of incoming helicopters). It’s a fun and appropriately inspiring experience with nothing terribly original about itself, but comedic blandness standing aside, it’s executed flawlessly.
Link to Foosball’s official web page: