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Soccer Days

An attempt to reproduce the success of "The Other Side of the Bed," "Soccer Days" features the same producer, many of the same thesps and the same scripter, David Serrano. However, "Days" only sporadically achieves earlier pic's elegant balance between sharp observation, romance and feel-good comedy.

Cast:
With: Ernesto Alterio, Alberto San Juan, Natalia Verbeke, Maria Esteve, Fernando Tejero, Pere Ponce, Roberto Alamo, Luis Bermejo, Secun de la Rosa, Nathalie Poza, Pilar Castro.

An unabashed attempt to reproduce the surprising B.O. success last year of Emilio Martinez-Lazaro’s comedy “The Other Side of the Bed,” the bubbly, lads-together “Soccer Days” features the same producer, many of the same thesps and the same scripter, David Serrano, here making his helming debut. However, “Days” only sporadically achieves earlier pic’s elegant balance between sharp observation, romance and feel-good comedy, too often falling back on exhausted slapstick. Still, home B.O.has been outstanding since pic’s mid-September release and “Soccer” should score easily in “futbol”-inclined territories offshore.

Aggressive Antonio (Ernesto Alterio) comes out of prison and joins a bunch of his old buddies in a marginal neighborhood of Madrid. They are insecure, good-hearted Jorge (Alberto San Juan), desperate to marry his g.f., and Antonio’s sister Violeta (Natalia Verbeke), who isn’t so sure; balding bus driver Ramon (Roberto Alamo), whose wife Carla (Maria Esteve) is eager to get pregnant; family man cop Miguel (Luis Bermejo), married to Patricia (Nathalie Poza), who wants to be a singer; perennial student Gonzalo (Secun de la Rosa); and wannabe actor Charlie (Pere Ponce).

They’re later joined by a friend of Antonio’s, Serafin (Fernando Tejero), a ne’er-do well and onetime jailbird.

Following years of therapy, Antonio fancies himself as a psychologist and comes up with the idea of setting up a soccer team, for which they choose the name “Brazil,” to help Jorge through his emotional problems. Early practices are predictably messy: After the first, Miguel accidentally leaves his baby behind and is thrown out of his home by Patricia.

One plot contrivance has Charlie needing a pig for an acting audition and the gang going off in search of one. Meanwhile, Jorge takes up with another woman, Barbara (Pilar Castro): In film’s best scene by a mile, he’s fellated by her while being greeted in a restaurant by Violeta and her new man.

Though much of the humor has to do with male indecision, and is thus superficially contempo, on this evidence Spanish comedy has not come too far from the populist work of the ’60s. This character-based pic is also pretty short on charm, with only Jorge, Antonio and Carla inspiring anything close to the kind affection that would have made pic more emotionally interesting.

Performances, from a combo of well-known and lesser-known actors, are fine given the limitations of the script. But two key factors in the success of “Bed” — thesps Paz Vega and Guillermo Toledo — are absent here, and it shows.

Pic could also lose at least 20 minutes without visible scarring. Score adds little to the mood.

Soccer Days

Spain

Production: A BVI Spain release of a Telespan Prods., Estudios Picasso production, in association with Via Digital. (International sales: Sogepaq, Madrid.) Produced by Tomas Cimadevilla. Executive producers, Ghislain Barrois, Jose Herrero de Egana. Directed, written by David Serrano.

Crew: Camera (color), Kiko de la Rica; editor, Rori Sainz de Rozas; music, Miguel Malla; art director, Beatriz San Juan; sound (Dolby Digital), Agustin Peinado. Reviewed at BVI screening room, Madrid, July 11, 2003. Running time: 118 MIN.

With: With: Ernesto Alterio, Alberto San Juan, Natalia Verbeke, Maria Esteve, Fernando Tejero, Pere Ponce, Roberto Alamo, Luis Bermejo, Secun de la Rosa, Nathalie Poza, Pilar Castro.

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