In 10 Words or Less
The best woman for the job is a man?
Likes: Missi Pyle
Dislikes: The Soccer Mom brand
Hates: Chick flicks, women's magazines
There are many personal warning signs I have when it comes to movies. If I see any kind of award from a family-friendly organization, I tend to get my guard up, as it's probably a sappy exercise in morality. If there are only critic quotes from publications or media outlets I've never heard of (and the film got any kind of theatricalrelease ), I have a good idea that the film isn't very good. And now, I can add a new one to my list: if the film is presented by a magazine, I should be wary. Nothing against Ladies' Home Journal, as I'd feel the same way if I saw "Maxim Magazine presents" or "Cigar Aficianado presents," but perhaps they should stick to printing recipes than producing films.
That said, Soccer Mom was better than I expected. Sure, that's not saying much, when you're starting out expecting a cinematic turd, but I can honestly say I was surprised by what this movie delivered. After all, I didn't quite look forward to the story of Wendy (Missi Pyle, GalaxyQuest), a widowed mom trying to juggle work and her family, as she attempts and fails at maintaining a relationship with her soccer-playingteen-aged daughter Becca (Emily Osment, "Hannah Montana".) But instead of becoming yet another "The Women of the Travelling Ya-Yas," Soccer Mom manages to avoid the proto-feminist/Lifetime TV movie pitfalls you normally see in similar mother/daughter films like this.
Though the conflict between Wendy and her daughter is in play from the start, things don't really get going until Becca's coach announces he's leaving, to be replaced by an recently-retired international soccer star named Lorenzo Vincenzo (played with the required lack of finesse by former MTV star Dan Cortez.) Take a moment and consider that the film is asking you to believe that this fictional David Beckham would even consider volunteering to guide a terrible girls' youth league team across the world in California, and that this leap is one of the more reasonable requests in the film. It's just that wacky.
When Lorenzo Vincenzo fails to fulfill his end of the supposed deal (and proves himself to be a scum-bag in the process) Wendy does what any mother would do to save her little girl from heartbreak: get her special-effects artist pal to make her into a dead-ringer for the Italian footballer and live a dual life, coaching Becca's team as a man and disappointing Becca as a mom. Though we've seen such performances before, it's rarely done by a woman, and rarely with logic gaps the size of the holes in this plot. One scene that sees Wendy change in and out of her disguise, by herself, twice in the span of a soccer game break, almost caused a rift in the time-space continuum. Where she finds the time for all her shenanigans, while she's running her own business and taking care of two younger kids, is another of those movie mysteries that will bug the more observant.
Pyle is, as she normally is when not playing a villain, very likable, and Osment is surprisingly good, despite being given little to do outside of complain and pout. As Lorenzo, Pyle is sufficiently camouflaged, allowing the scenes where she's off-guard to be as funny as they should be, though how she could have fooled anyone who had seen a man, not even just this man, is another stretch (though admittedly, I didn't recognize her on the cover of the box. Mom and daughter are surrounded with some impressive support, like the oft-funny Steve Hytner as the team's coach and Elon Gold as Wendy's soccer-loving employee, a somewhat thankless role that Gold improves upon.
Ads far as the rest of the plot goes, it's a mix of Ladybugs and The Mighty Ducks 3, with a touch of mom's-not-these drama, as Wendy's actions improve the team but her absentee mom-ness leave her daughter open to abuse from the mean girls on Becca's rival team, the rich(er?) girls of Malibu. It's predictable and, like many other parts of the film, rather unrealistic, but it's done rather adroitly, under the protection of the suspension of disbelief that sports films work under. Thus, for all my negative notes, it's actually not a bad movie, and one that likely is more enjoyable in direct relation to your personal amount of estrogen.
A one-disc release, Soccer Mom arrives in a standard-width white keepcase, with a cover-art repeating slipcover and a four-page insert with coupons. The disc features a static, anamorphic widescreen menu, with options to watch the film, select scenes, adjust languages and check out the extras. There are no audio options, though subtitles are available in Spanish, along with closed captioning.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer on this film is good, but not great, thanks to color that's a touch below what you'd expect from a recent film, and an image that could be sharper overall, with more fine detail. But despite those subtle flaws, the look of the film is solid, without any problems with dirt or damage, and no noticeable problems with digital artifacts.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is surprisingly active for this type of film, using the speakers to the sides and rear to enhance the music, while throwing in some atmospheric effects on the outside, like people yelling in the distance. It's not an active mix, as the sound tends to stay where is originates, but it does its job well.
There are a limited amount of extras included, starting with the eight-minute "Heart of Goal," which is essentially the overview making-of featurette. Interviews with the principals are mixed with scenes from the film and some on-set footage. Pyle is charming as she talks about the movie, and though it's a bit fluffy, it's not the worst example of the genre.
"From Mom to Man" spends a bit over six minutes on the work that went into transforming Pyle into Vincenzo, and will be of interest to fans of special effects work, as it's rare to see this effect done on a woman. Quick, yet informative, it's a solid featurette.
Also included here is the movie's trailer (a spoiler fest), and previews of other films.
The Bottom Line
When this movie arrived, Ladies' Home Journal credit and all, I expected to severely dislike it, and perhaps even hate it, but to the credit of the creators and the strength of Pyle as an actor, I can see the appeal this movie could have for young girls and moms alike. The DVD isn't bad in terms of the look and sound, and some minor, well-made extras bump up the package a bit. If you fit the target demos, give it a shot and you might be pleasantly surprised.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.