Matt Dillon narrates this documentary about the short-lived North American Soccer League through the popularity of the New York Cosmos, which boasted global stars like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia and more.
Big question: Will this doc interest anyone who insists the only real form of "football" is played with a helmet and, well, hands?
Catch it: A smart look behind the scenes of a temporary phenomenon, "Once in a Lifetime" has the optimism of Warner Bros. chairman/Cosmos founder Steve Ross, who ruthlessly strategized how to sell soccer to a fickle U.S. audience. Even if you thought the World Cup was a snooze, you'll marvel at the sight of soccer stars schmoozing at Studio 54, rubbing elbows with Robert Redford and Mick Jagger and drawing up to 80,000 fans per game in an American stadium.
Skip it: If you're convinced Madonna is the most famous one-name celeb of all-time. Pele gives the Material Girl a run for her money.
Bottom line: "Once in a Lifetime" doesn't really connect the dots between the Cosmos and soccer in the U.S. today, or analyze why the sport failed on American TV. But it aptly portrays the country's brief love affair with soccer and acknowledges that it will continue to thrive, whether we're paying attention or not.
Bonus: Decide if your perception of soccer is similar to that of former Warner exec Jay Emmett: "I thought that giving great head was something else."
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
'Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos'
Directed by Paul Crowder and John Dower; produced by John Battsek, Fisher Stevens and Tim Williams. A Miramax Films and ESPN Original Entertainment release; opens Friday at the AMC Esquire. Running time: 1:37. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for language and some nudity).Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times