June 8, 2010 8:30 AM ET
Nothing gets us pumped for the World Cup like Sly Stallone.
The 2010 FIFA World Cup is only three days away. Which means we only have three days left to cram all kinds of soccer goodness into our brains in preparation for the big event. And by all kinds of soccer goodness, we mean soccer movies, of course. There’s a whole mess of ‘em out there, but here are five we’re counting on to get us properly pumped up for South Africa.
If you’ve never seen “Victory,” or “Escape to Victory,” as it’s known outside North American, there are several things you need to know about the 1981 film. 1. It is the best football film ever made, according to The Escape To Victory Website (they might be a little biased). 2. It is set during World War II and is about a group of allied Prisoners of War who play a soccer game against the German National Team, all while they plan their escape (think “The Longest Yard,” but with Nazis). 3. It stars Sylvester Stallone as the goalie for the prisoners' team, Michael Caine as its coach and Pele (yes, that Pele) as its star. If all that doesn’t have you running to your Netflix queue, we don’t know what to say. Except for, it looks like there is a remake in the works!
If you've heard the story once, you've heard it a thousand times: teenagers forced to cross-dress by their soon-to-be step-parents, all in the name of love (and youth soccer). At this point, it's almost cliche, isn't it? But that shouldn't stop you from revisiting this 1992 movie starring Rodney Dangerfield (RIP) as befuddled youth soccer coach Chester Lee, Jackee as his excitable assistant and Jonathan Brandis (RIP) as Matthew, the boy Chester forces to dress up as “Martha” to help his team win. It might not be the most feminist of movie plots, but at least those kids have some pretty sweet moves.
What’s “Shaolin Soccer”? Only the top-grossing action comedy in Hong Kong’s history. Or, it was at the time of its release in 2002. More specifically, it’s a movie directed, co-written, and starring Stephen Chow, who is a martial arts master turned street cleaner turned dude who forms a soccer team of ex-kung fu fighters to take on another team called Team Evil. Yup, Team Evil. To put it more clearly, kung fu + soccer = rent this now. The movie has a cult following, but was praised by critics, too. In the words of the great Roger Ebert, “it is piffle, yes, but superior piffle.” Piffle, in case you were wondering (and we were), means trivial nonsense, basically. And we’re all for that.
“Bend it Like Beckham”
Despite Keira Knightley’s mom’s assertion that “there’s a reason Sporty Spice is the only one without a fella,” this 2002 movie taught us that girls who play football (or soccer, whatever) really do get the guy in the end. As well as tons of self-esteem, and a sense of place in the world and all that other good stuff, too (oh, sorry, Spoiler Alert!). Nothing gets us primed for the World Cup like watching Jess (Parminder Nagra aka Neela from ER) watching clips of Beckham. It makes us nostalgic for the times when he was relevant on an international level.
“Kicking & Screaming”
No, this isn’t the Will Ferrell movie about NASCAR. And it’s not the Will Ferrell movie about the ABA. Or ice skating. This is the ‘05 flick starring Will Ferrell as Phil Weston, a deranged youth soccer coach, and Robert Duvall as Buck Weston, Phil’s deranged dad, also a youth soccer coach. Sure, the critics might have panned it, tossing around words like “unoriginal,” “mediocre” and “yawn.” But surely a movie starring Mike Ditka as Mike Ditka is worth a rental, no? And if seeing a bunch of adorable 10-year-olds tripping over soccer balls while getting yelled at by Ferrell and Duvall doesn’t get you psyched for all the upcoming World Cup, then frankly, we don’t know what will.