Rivalry, Redemption, and Excellent Animation in ‘Foosball’

March 11, 2014 Updated: March 11, 2014

For some hardcore table soccer players, only absolutely clean goals count. That is more stringent than the rules laid down by the international association, but nearly everyone frowns on three-sixty “spinnies.”

However, all rule books get tossed out when an egomaniacal football (soccer) superstar challenges a nebbish table player in Juan José Campanella’s “Foosball,” which screens in 2-D during the 2014 New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Amadeo’s son Maty thinks the old man is kind of a loser. Oh, but if he only knew the full story. In his old village home, Amadeo worked in the neighborhood bar and lovingly cared for the foosball table. He soon becomes the local champion, even besting the bullying Grosso.

For years, this was his moment of glory and the foundation of his relationship with Laura, his almost-girlfriend. Unfortunately, Grosso has returned, having achieved fame and fortune as a footballer. It seems the thuggish Grosso has bought the town in its entirety and intends to bulldoze everything to make way for his grand football complex. Naturally, his first target is Amadeo’s foosball table, the symbol of his only defeat.

Thoroughly demoralized, he only manages to save the captain, who comes alive like Frosty when christened with one of Amadeo’s tears. Soon Amadeo’s entire foos team is animated and reunited, along with the Maroons, their Washington General rivals. Of course, the small metallic men will be no match for the brutish Grosso, but they will coach Amadeo when he is forced to challenge his nemesis to a match on the football field.

It is not hard to see why “Foosball” was a monster hit in Argentina. The animation is at a Pixar level, and it features all kinds of football action. It is an unlikely follow-up to Campanella’s Oscar-winning melancholy mystery, “The Secret in Their Eyes,” but “Foosball” shows a bit of an analog sensibility, preferring the physicality of foosball to insubstantial video games. Viewers are also clearly invited to disdain Grosso’s nouveau riche excesses.

Without question, the little foos men are the film’s not-so-secret weapons. Lovingly scratched and worn in appropriate detail, they cleverly send up archetypes that will be familiar to even casual soccer watchers. Yet for adults, Grosso’s unapologetically corpulent and equally acerbic agent often steals the show.

Campanella scores a lot of laughs in “Foosball,” while saying quite a bit about fair play and self-respect.

It is a lot of fun, but it actually is not the best Latin American animated film at this year’s NYICFF. That would be Alfredo Soderguit’s sweet and sensitive “Anina,” hailing from Uruguay. Still, young boys will probably dig “Foosball” more.

Recommended for sports fans of all ages, “Foosball” screens Saturday March 15 at the SVA Theater and Saturday March 29 at the IFC Center.

Joe Bendel writes about independent film and lives in New York. To read his most recent articles, please visit www.jbspins.blogspot.com


Director: Juan José Campanella
Starring: Rupert Grint, Peter Serafinowicz, Anthony Head
Run Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes
Screening: March 15
Not rated

3.5 stars out of 5