"The Big Green" is a minor-league soccer comedy for kids that won't score many points at the B.O. This Disney rehash may eventually click as a rental item with parents who use the family VCR as a high-tech babysitter, but even very small children will likely spot this derivative fluff as a smudged carbon of "The Mighty Ducks."

“The Big Green” is a minor-league soccer comedy for kids that won’t score many points at the B.O. This Disney rehash may eventually click as a rental item with parents who use the family VCR as a high-tech babysitter, but even very small children will likely spot this derivative fluff as a smudged carbon of “The Mighty Ducks.”

Set in a gone-to-seed Texas town just down the road from Austin, action begins with the improbable arrival of Anna Montgomery (Olivia d’Abo), a British grade-school teacher on an international exchange program. Anna vows to jumpstart the self-esteem of her students — who, like their mostly unemployed parents, are defeated and cynical, if not openly hostile, in the wake of a local plant closing.

To make them feel good about themselves, Anna encourages her kids to form a soccer team. Unfortunately, as soon as they lose to a champion team in Austin, the kids start feeling even worse about themselves.

The ease with which Anna is able to enter her untrained kids in a youth soccer league is just one of the many lapses of logic that abound in “Big Green.” (She simply calls the Austin officials, and presto — her students get to play in a match the very next day.)

Steve Guttenberg injects an overabundance of corn pone into his labored attempts at a Texas accent as Tom Palmer, a deputy sheriff who once played high school football. Tom, instantly smitten with Anna, agrees to help her coach the Big Green, her team of dweebs, misfits and underachievers. But the extracurricular activity quickly turns into a personal matter for Tom, whose worst enemy from high school days, the imperious Jay Huffer (Jay O. Sanders), just happens to be the coach of the best youth soccer team in the state.

Screenwriter Holly Goldberg Sloan makes an inauspicious directing debut, trying to punch up her tired plot with silly sight gags, most of them involving speeded-up photography or a team-mascot goat. She also tosses in some cloying clumps of sentimentality and melodrama involving a sullen tomboy’s embarrassment over her unemployed, alcoholic father and another youth’s worries that his mother will be picked up by immigration authorities.

Nor does it come as a surprise when both sets of problems are resolved just in time for the Big Green face-off in the championship game with — yes, you guessed it — Huffer’s team.

As the irrepressibly optimistic Anna, d’Abo displays an appealingly fresh charm. But Guttenberg and Sanders simply offer tired reprises of performances they have given in other, better movies. Bug Hall (of “The Little Rascals”) has some mildly amusing moments as the smallest member of the Big Green. Other members of the team, including Chauncey Leopardi as an overweight goalie, are pretty much your standard-issue Bad News Little Giant Mighty Ducks.

Filmed on location in and around Austin, “The Big Green” is thoroughly unremarkable on just about every conceivable level. It isn’t even bad enough to be truly memorable. But it does offer too much of a mediocre thing. At nearly 100 minutes, it seems at least 20 minutes too long.

The Big Green

Production

A Buena Vista Pictures release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Caravan Pictures production. Produced by Roger Birnbaum. Executive producer, Dennis Bishop. Directed, written by Holly Goldberg Sloan.

Crew

Camera (color), Ralf Bode; editor, John F. Link; music, Randy Edelman; production design, Evelyn Sakash; art direction, Harry Darrow; costume design, Rondi Hillstrom Davis; sound (Dolby), Robert Allan Wild; assistant director, Chris Stoia; casting, Rick Montgomery, Dan Parada. Reviewed at General Cinema Meyerland Plaza, Houston, Sept. 27, 1995. MPAA rating: PG. Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Tom Palmer - Steve Guttenberg
Anna Montgomery - Olivia d'Abo
Jay Huffer - Jay O. Sanders
Edwin V. Douglas - John Terry
Evan Schiff - Chauncey Leopardi
Larry Musgrove - Patrick Renna
Jeffrey Luttrell - Billy L. Sullivan
Marbelly Morales - Yareli Arizmendi
Newt Shaw - Bug Hall
Kate Douglas - Jessie Robertson
Juan Morales - Anthony Esquivel
Nick Anderssen - Jordan Brower
Sophia Convertino - Hayley Kolb
Polly Neilson - Hayley Miller
Lou Gates - Ashley Welch
Sue Gates - Areil Welch
Tak Yamato - Jimmy Higa

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