Sunday, 27 July 2014
Aw man I feel like I'm kicking a puppy here, but I guess I have to admit that, being a man in his thirties, I'm not really Believe's target audience. If I was a kid I imagine I'd really like this movie, but as it stands it is maudlin, sentimental and occasionally, unintentionally, unsavoury.
Allegedly based on true events, Believe sees former Man Utd manager and footballing legend Sir Matt Busby (Brian Cox at his most avuncular, with a suitable trace of steel) come out of retirement to coach a seven-a-side team of pre pubescent working class urchins to glory in mid 80s Manchester.
I feel rather like many who criticised the film Attack The Block for representing thieving children as heroes in that I failed to be won over by the principal boy, Georgie, who is saddled with the unruly but talented cliche which means we see him steal Sir Matt's wallet in the opening scene, steal his mother's savings a little later and finally attempt to break into and rob his teacher's home. Why am I supposed to care about this little cretin? Oh yeah, his dad's dead. It doesn't help that the child actor picked to portray this difficult role, Jack Smith, cannot act for toffee. Harsh criticism for a little lad I know, but there's surely better actors of his age out there. It really didn't surprise me to learn in the closing credits that each child was picked for their footballing abilities - they all play in under 12 squads - than for their acting, though I would query that decision ultimately as, whilst it clearly aided the football choreography, I don't think it helped the film overall. I just wanted to clip his ear throughout the 90 minutes and I can't imagine that was ever director David Scheinmann's intentions.
Further discomfort is evident with the employment of a real tragedy, the Munich air disaster that Busby survived, as currency to hang the fiction upon. It's deeply unsuitable and a jarring fit that makes the whole affair somewhat cringeworthy. In fact much of Believe proves to be a jarring fit, with some performances and characterisation much closer to panto (yes you, Toby Stephens, 'gifted' the OTT comedic caricature of posh teacher with mildly amusing name) than the realistic and well intentioned endeavours of Cox et al. Natascha McElhone and Kate Ashfield, once very promising actresses, appear as players mothers in what can only be depressing proof that their stock is sadly falling.
Oh and we really didn't need that reference to some promising kid called 'David B...something' at the end did we?
Believe has some good intentions and its nice to see a British family film attempt to capture hearts in a manner that is perhaps more familiar in the American market but its delivery is ultimately incredibly flawed and rather boring. I'd be interested to see what children and/or Man Utd fans make of it, however...