“The Unbeatables” opens with a humorous parody of the “2001: A Space Odyssey” monolith sequence, and so sets the tone of a lively and fairly amusing, double layered family film in which a group of table footballers come to life in order to help a small-town foosball champion. This movie features a script heavily laden with cutting remarks concerning a certain footballing body (“You can trust me – I used to work for FIFA”) and a narcissistic footballing superstar villain who in no way bears any similarities to any real-life celebrity footballer.
Having premiered at last year’s San Sebastian Festival (Spain), “The Unbeatables” (originally titled “Metegol” (Foosball) in Latin America and known as “Underdogs” in the U.S.) is a curious animated adventure creation, and not only because the man at the helm is Academy Award-winning director Juan José Campanella, creator of the vastly different “The Secret in Their Eyes.” In his youth, skilled foosball player Amadeo (Rupert Grint) wiped the floor with, and humiliated Flash (Anthony Head), the arrogant bully of the South American village setting. Years later, whilst Amadeo struggles to make something of himself, Flash has managed to become a professional football player. He returns to his hometown with the intention of bulldozing it flat and erecting an enormous stadium in its place.
As Amadeo quickly runs out of options to save his home and the love of his life, Lara (Eve Ponsonby), his only hope is to beat Flash once more, but with the help of his miniature foosball players who miraculously take on a life of their own.
As a box office winner in its home market of Argentina where it was released last year during the World Cup, Campanella’s “The Unbeatables” has unfortunately suffered considerably in translation from the original Spanish screenplay, with a lot of the humor lost through the distributor’s attempts to satisfy international audiences. The script itself is not the most original, and, while the element of magic associated with many films intended for younger audiences is present, even children may suffer to get much out of this foreign picture.
Two scenes that follow Amadeo as an adult, retelling the adventure to his son, encompass the majority of the narrative. This choice of direction removes much of the suspense from the start of the film, as it is clear that nothing terrible happens in the main story.
The digital animation, on the other hand, is excellent for what it is. Alas, it is not at all Pixar standard, however there are plenty of dynamic action sequences and well-chosen camera angles. The appearance is very cartoon-like, with some truly unique character designs, along with some very realistic texturing – such as the paint being scratched off of the bodies of the foosball players, revealing metal underneath. There is plenty of color and vibrancy, but nowhere near the standards of the recently released “The LEGO Movie.”
It goes without saying that the English dubbed voice cast is excellent, even when the lip sync isn’t quite up to scratch. But in the end it is all essentially aimed at younger audiences, with adults likely checking their watches for much of the film – frustrated or bored with the slow, unhurried pace with which the drama (or lack of it) seems to unfold.
The saving grace of the movie for older audiences is the subtle, satirical jabs at the world of football: “I don’t do anything without a sponsor.” It is difficult to pinpoint the reasons why this film was such a colossal hit in its home country (even hitting records for most expensive Argentinian film to date), but what is ultimately delivered can only be classed as a fun flick for the younger, perhaps more football-obsessed children. Sadly this film seems to have been scheduled for release in the U.S. far too late – with the World Cup over and no other real interest in the sport, there is the real possibility that this will be a box office flop.Continue Reading Issue #17
English (originally Spanish)
January 15, 2015 (US)
1 hr. 37 min.
Animation, Adventure, Family
Juan José Campanella
Rupert Grint, Peter Serafinowicz, Anthony Head, Rob Brydon, Darren Boyd, Ralf Little, Andrew Knott, Stanley Townsend, Alex Norton