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‘The Big Green’ (PG)

By William F. Powers
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 29, 1995

"The Big Green" had a fantastic trailer, a trailer worthy of a mini-Oscar. Maybe you saw it. It ran before "Babe," the exemplary pig comedy, and gave us funny-looking kids playing riotous, hilarious soccer.

Now "The Big Green" is here, and guess what? It's not half as good as the trailer promised it would be. Oh, the kiddies will love it, because it's one of those genre movies that push all their buttons. But parental escorts will see it for the forced, derivative thing it is.

Remember "The Bad News Bears" and "The Mighty Ducks"? This is the soccer version, obviously manufactured to cash in on the country's relatively new enthusiasm for the game. If you've seen any of the countless other ragtag-team-of-kids-makes-good movies, you can pretty much script this one yourself.

Elma is a sad little town in Texas where almost everyone is unemployed and life is dull. So dull that, for fun, the kids lie on the ground, cover themselves with Cheetos and hold still as pigeons swarm over them.

One of the kids, portly, red-haired Larry (Patrick Renna), is a cartoon come to life, his eyes and mouth telegraphing a thousand different brands of impishness. He's a delight to watch. The other kids are mostly one-joke wonders, and the jokes are not very clever. One kid burps a lot, for instance, and there are twin girls who speak in unison.

A new teacher comes to town, a gorgeous but kind Englishwoman played fecklessly by Olivia d'Abo. She soon discovers that these Elma kids don't think much of themselves. "Don't waste your time on us," says one kid. "We're losers."

But we know they're not, don't we? So together with the handsome, single sheriff of Elma (Steve Guttenberg)—love-interest alert!—she teaches them to play soccer, and enters them in the Austin junior soccer league.

Of course, the Elma team is a model of racial, ethnic, gender and body-type diversity. There are short kids and tall kids, girls and boys. There are white faces, black faces and an Asian face, and soon enough a Hispanic face arrives in the person of soccer virtuoso Juan Morales (Anthony Esquivel).

And wouldn't you know it, the biggest, baddest team in the league, the Knights, are all white males with a decidedly Aryan tilt to their features. They don't think girls can play, and their coach is a bigot who dislikes Mexicans. Guess they're the bad guys.

Renna and the other kids deliver some humor, but not enough to paper over the formulaic script and the bush-league adult cast. D'Abo is a length of blond wood, utterly lacking the sort of charm that this kind of role requires; she would have done well to study some old Julie Andrews movies before reporting to the set. As the washed-up-jock lawman, Guttenberg drawls so unconvincingly that one stops listening and tries to figure out how he maintained a perfect three-day beard for the duration of the film.

You know the ending. The kids who see this movie will clap and want to kick the ball around. Parents will be pining for old "Babe."

The Big Green is rated PG.

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