Film review: The Unbeatables 3D (U, 97 min)
Beautiful game, average film
The beautiful game turns ugly in Juan Jose Campanella’s free-flowing computer-animated fantasy.
Released on home turf in South America more than a year ago where it scored a record-breaking opening weekend, this English language version is a visual treat.
However the script scores a few own goals with a tepid romantic subplot and an emotionally underpowered final shootout that fails to rouse audiences on the terraces of their multiplexes.
In football, timing is crucial and can mean the difference between hard fought victory and soul-destroying defeat. The timing of The Unbeatables seems slightly off.
Surely Campanella’s film should have kicked off four weeks ago on the crest of a post-World Cup wave rather than standing on the touchlines until the start of the new Premier League season?
The film’s unlikely hero is Amadeo (voiced by Rupert Grint), who lives in a small village with his publican father (Darren Boyd).
The lad is a wizard at table football and when local bully Flash (Anthony Head) challenges Amadeo to a match in front of the lovely Lara (Eve Ponsonby), Amadeo overcomes his nerves to emerge victorious with his favoured yellow and green striped team.
Flash vows revenge. Many years later, the bully returns as a footballing superstar with a slimy agent (Stanley Townsend) and a contract, signed by the mayor, granting him permission to build a gargantuan stadium on top of the village.
To save the community from the bulldozers, Amadeo reluctantly agrees to a rematch - only this time, they will play on a proper pitch.
In the run-up to the televised grudge fixture, Amadeo’s table footballers magically come to life.
Skip (Ralf Little), captain of the green and yellow stripes, rallies his troops including fellow strikers Rico (Rob Brydon) and Loco (Peter Serafinowicz).
Unfortunately, Amadeo’s best players are barely an inch tall so the lad must recruit eccentric friends and neighbours to his squad.
“It’s going to be like Barcelona against a non-league team with an injury crisis!” despairs Loco.
The Unbeatables is a classic David vs Goliath yarn that pokes fun at the preening prima donnas of the modern game, who earn more in one week for 90 minutes of dribbling than many of us see in a year.
The writers have personalized the dialogue to these shores, including a name check for Accrington Stanley FC and a sideswipe at Sepp Blatter and his organization when Flash’s insidious agent grins, “You can trust me – I worked at FIFA!”
Set pieces including a visit to a fairground are a triumph of style over plausibility, treading water until Amadeo must face his destiny under his rival’s malevolent gaze.
Vocal performances hit the woodwork, combining warmth with some shameless grandstanding from Brydon as the egotist, who spends almost as much time admiring his voluminous locks as he does perfecting his passing shots.
Animation/Family/Drama. Featuring the voices of Rupert Grint, Eve Ponsonby, Anthony Head, Stanley Townsend, Ralf Little, Rob Brydon, Peter Serafinowicz, Darren Boyd, Alistair McGowan, Alex Norton. Director: Juan Jose Campanella.