HBO's "Dare to Dream: The Story of the U.S. Women's Soccer Team" is a competent but unremarkable documentary about the ladies who were at the forefront of the American women's soccer craze circa 1999. It aired on HBO in 2005, using the late-2004 retirement of three key players -- Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and Joy Fawcett -- as its jumping-off point to tell the story that stretches back two decades.
The team was assembled in 1986 by coach Anson Dorrance, who scoured the nation's high schools and youth leagues looking for good players. Among his finds were the three players just mentioned, plus eventual superstars Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain, and Michelle Akers. This team played in the first-ever Women's World Cup in 1991 -- and won it.
From the beginning, the players were energetic and happy, but they were plagued by one thing: indifference. Americans generally didn't care about soccer at all, let alone women's soccer. The 1991 World's Cup in China was a big deal there; when they got back to the United States, no one was interested. They won the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics -- the first time women's soccer had been included -- but no one saw it because NBC was showing another event when it happened.
It was the 1999 Women's World Cup, hosted by the United States, that finally thrust the team into America's consciousness. The film spends a lot of time on it, showing how the players made as many goodwill appearances at local soccer fields as possible to drum up support and to provide inspiration to the young girls who loved the sport. Sure enough, all of the World Cup events played to sellout crowds (one commentator observes that they were a bigger draw at Giants Stadium than the Giants had ever been), and of course they won the tournament. The image of Brandi Chastain ripping off her shirt in victory became legendary.
New interviews with all the players tell the story, aided by authoritative-sounding narration by Liev Schreiber. Like all good sports stories, there are setbacks, twists, and surprises. Chastain was at one point cut from the team, only to return in 1996 as a "scab" when the players were threatening to boycott the Olympics over a contract dispute. The women had an ongoing rivalry with the Norwegian team ("Viking bitches," they call them) that provided several dramatic moments. Michelle Akers battled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome -- just about the worst illness you can imagine for a soccer player.
"Dare to Dream" tells the story the way most made-for-TV documentaries do. There isn't a lot of flash or showmanship; the credits don't even list a director. (The producers are Ross Greenburg, Rick Bernstein, and Joe Lavine.) It's nice to see how the women were such role models to young female soccer players, and the team members have a genuine affection for one another that comes through loud and clear. They're likable, which is more than you can say for a lot of professional athletes, and their story is compelling.
There is an alternate Spanish soundtrack. There are no subtitles at all.
VIDEO: Full-screen (1.33:1) aspect ratio. The new footage was shot on digital video and looks characteristically crisp and clean. Some of the archival footage was shot on home video cameras and so forth, and suffers from those limitations. Overall it's a perfectly good-looking movie, though.
AUDIO: Basic stereo. There is nothing remarkable about it.
Considering there are no extras of any kind, there's no reason to buy the disc unless you're a hardcore soccer fanatic. For more casual fans, a rental and a one-time viewing is all you'd need.