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The Big Green


Friday September 29, 1995

     Anna Montgomery (Olivia d'Abo), the nicest thing Britain's done for Texas since deciding not to colonize it, explains to her skeptical and seriously attitudinal students that there are four important factors to the game of soccer: Fitness, technique, tactics and game psychology. They respond by staring, slack-jawed.
     What she might have added, perkily, is that there are four important factors to making an inspirational sports movie like "The Big Green":
     1--Organization of misfits.
     2--Humiliating defeat.
     3--Development of skills and team camaraderie.
     4--Glorious victory/revenge over team that perpetrated No. 2.
     Throw in one kid who has both a big secret and the best athletic skills and what you have, in essence, is a puckless "Mighty Ducks." Which is not necessarily bad, just necessarily derivative and a little tedious, unless you're 6; as a 12-year-old consultant whispered to me during the last few moments of this movie, "Why don't they stop it now? We know what's gonna happen." Yeah, but that's the point. Why tamper with a game plan that works?
     And it does, to a large degree, although freshman director/writer Holly Goldberg Sloan is certainly plowing old ground. The kids are an endearing group--particularly Larry (Patrick Renna of "The Sandlot") and Newt (Bug Hall of "The Little Rascals")--even if they're stuck in the depressed Texas town of Elma, where "nothing ever happens." But Anna happens, captivating both the kids and the unshaven, quasi-blockheaded Sheriff Tom Palmer (Steve Guttenberg), whom she persuades to help her organize a town soccer team, on the field once known as "the big green."
     The opening game between The Big Green and the Knights, who are coached by the insufferably arrogant Jay Huffer (Jay O. Sanders) is a debacle. But things get better after Juan Morales (Anthony Esquivel), a real player, joins the team. The problem is, Juan's mother is nervous about something. Will Juan make the big game? Will the Big Green snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? Will Newt make the winning shot on goal? If you don't know the answer, you haven't been to the movies in a while.

The Big Green, 1995. PG for some mild language. A Roger Birnbaum production, released by Walt Disney Pictures in association with Caravan Pictures. Director: Holly Goldberg Sloan. Producer: Roger Birnbaum. Screenplay by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Cinematographer: Ralf Bode, A.S.C. Editor: John F. Link. Costumes: Rondi Hillstrom Davis. Music: Randy Edelman. Production design: Evelyn Sakash. Art director: Harry Darrow. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. Steve Guttenberg as Tom Palmer. Olivia d'Abo as Anna Montgomery. Jay O. Sanders as Jay Huffer. John Terry as Edwin V. Douglas. Chauncey Leopardi as Evan Schiff.

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