Now streaming via HBO is kiddie-sports comedy Los Futbolisimos, which translates not-quite-cleanly from Spanish as The Footballest, which, for Americans, should probably read The Soccerest. Regardless, it implies that someone/thing is more futbol/football/soccer than other futbol/football/soccer competitors, although if you watch the film, you’ll learn that its self-proclaimed “futbolisimos” are not the best at the sport, but rather, a ragtag group of misfits fighting for their lives to win a single game lest their team be banished to the void, and is that the wind, or are you deep-sighing already?
‘LOS FUTBOLISIMOS’: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: There’s this kid named Paco (Julio Bohigas-Couto), but the other kids call him Pakito, which sort of sounds like Paquito or poquito, all of which basically is a way of saying he’s small. He looooooooves soccer, but is utterly lousy at penalty kicks. So lousy, there’s a YouTube video compilation of all his mighty whiffs and misses and way-offs, and it has views in the six figures. He’s 11, and his narration implies that he mostly just rolls with it when everyone else teases him. He has a mildly delinquent older brother; his dad (Joaquin Reyes) is a dorky cop; his mom (Carmen Ruiz) is an exuberant soccer fan who gets so crazed she winds up to bellow cuss words and forces others to cover her mouth before the movie gets bumped to a PG-13.
Pakito plays for the Soto Alto Soccer Club, where Toni (Marcos Milara) is the muy hermoso star. Pakito’s sporting pals are tiny Anita (Samantha Jaramillo), an unlikely backup goalkeeper, and Ocho (Pablo Isabel), among a few others, all dedicated to saving their mediocre team before the school’s head teacher replaces the program with a choir club. For obscure, possibly completely pointless reasons, this won’t happen if they win just one of their next three games. They bring in a ringer of sorts in Helena (Milene Mayer), who’s really good, like, she can really dribble the ball and all that. She’s Pakito’s neighbor, and he pretends he hasn’t noticed her, even though he’s really really noticed her, like, really. And it’s too bad Toni swoops in to smooch her first. But Pakito just rolls with it, like a soccer ball might roll, until he puts a foot on it and it goes to Hell or the moon.
Soto Alto seems reasonably capable of saving itself, until the first game begins reeking strongly of fish. The referee hits the deck halfway through, and his replacement seems hellbent on making sure they lose. Game two, same scenario, same jerk shuttled in to wave off their every goal for dubious reasons. So Pakito and Helena lead an inquiry into this curious conspiracy, setting up shop in a nearby abandoned spooky house and investigating the bumbling adults who might benefit from such a scheme. And they need to rip a lid off it before the last game, which is VICTORY OR DEATH.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Los Futbolisimos comes from a long line of kiddie team-sport misfit-loser-comeback comedies, from The Bad News Bears to The Mighty Ducks to soccer flicks like Steve Guttenberg vehicle The Big Green and Will Ferrell vehicle Kicking and Screaming. It’s also based on a book series, so it has a few Wimpy Kidisms too.
Performance Worth Watching: If memory serves — and trust me, I tried to forget everything about this movie — Mayer is the only cast member who isn’t asked to do dumb, embarrassing things.
Memorable Dialogue: Should I transcribe the dialogue of Pakito’s teacher, who has a lisp, and his vocal affectations are all directly translated in the subtitles? Is this where I mention that Pakito’s mom’s catchphrase is “Baloney!”, or that the most clever line in the entire movie is “You have between 15 minutes and a quarter of an hour to get here”?
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: Los Futbolisimos is Disney Channel formula crud boiled down to its cheapest, most comedically desperate components: slapstick, wacky hijinks, chintzy visual effects (they resemble Snapchat filters) and goofball characters, except the goofball characters aren’t goofy enough to be interesting or memorable. The movie is weighed down by relentless mugging, an intrusive musical score stampeding through every scene and the most blatant specific fast-food-chain product placement since Mac and Me.
Director Miguel Angel Lamata cribs the bright and colorful aesthetic from a million kids’ movies before it, which is its most professional aspect. Otherwise, it’s full of scenes stapled together with little care for continuity. It drags us through yet another big-game down-to-the-wire sports plot and leans on the usual musical-montage and cutaway-fantasy junk. The kids are all whip-smart and the adults are blithering clods, and poor Pakito never becomes the lovable Charlie Brownish protagonist he needs to be. If you’re not eight years old, all of this will rub you like a freshly sharpened cheese grater, except it’s also excruciatingly boring, and that’s where my simile fails.
Our Call: SKIP IT. Los Futbolisimos is barely preferable to a Pele bicycle kick to the skull.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.
Stream Los Futbolisimos on HBO