When the World Cup or Olympics roll onto the popular landscape every four years, one of two things tend to happen: you get an 'unauthorized' story of a highly visible figure from said event, or you get a documentary about the event that discusses the underlying impact of the event on the country. Coach takes things in the other direction; making a film using soccer as the backdrop. I'll presume that the timing with the World Cup wasn't a conscious decision on the part of the filmmakers, but if you're going to make a movie that coincidentally has soccer as the backdrop, at least pay a little more attention to the backdrop in question, shall we?
Written and directed by Will Frears, son of Stephen (from The Queen). In it, Hugh Dancy (from Confessions of a Shopaholic) plays Nick, a guy who is fairly comfortable financially, thanks to a trust fund, but spends a lot of time with his friends around bars and soccer fields. This begins to affect his relationship with Zoe (Gillian Jacobs, The Box), who breaks up with him before she goes to Hollywood to start a movie career. So he decides to turn to soccer and coach the local youth soccer team and slowly regain purpose in his life.
When you read this synopsis, if I substituted another sport for soccer, say hockey (The Mighty Ducks) or baseball (Bad News Bears), you wouldn't really know the difference. You even get the talented player who has a parent who doesn't want him to play soccer anymore. The parent is played by David Zayas from Dexter, which is good in the sense that some acting ability is injected into the film. But he's misused in the antagonist's role. Why doesn't he want him to play? He has a back injury that caused him to lose his job, so the son has to pitch in by working at a job after school. Boo fracking hoo! Take some Aleve, rub some dirt on it and tough it out. Or better yet, come up with a better issue for an antagonist to have and at least give an interest in the viewer in wanting Dancy to excel.
And that's the fault of bad writing, executed by a cast that has little interest in trying to elevate the material. Dancy has performed better in similar paint-by-number romantic comedies, though some of that has to do with slightly better scripts. Dancy is trying to be the marquee name, but he has neither Hugh Grant's reputation nor acting ability, apparently, and the result is disappointingly bland. My wife, who is fond of Dancy and seen several of his movies, looked over at me during the film and said, "This is horrible!" and she said this within the first ten minutes. Dancy's performance isn't exclusively bad; the story's a poorly amalgamated mess of other similar films. The kids on the soccer team are decent with what they have to work with, but when you're playing off a guy who isn't the Mighty Ducks' Emilio Estevez (to say nothing for Walter Matthau), you're asking for trouble.
So you get the conflict, you get the lead's trials through the dark side to the light, and you get a monkey wrench thrown into the mix when the girlfriend who abandons him wants to come back. The only thing the film robs us of is, frankly, the success of the team at the end of the film, since you're reminded of it periodically throughout. And that's even sillier than what happened in the 86 minutes before that. Look, Dancy's character is supposed to evolve as an individual human being and make some tough decisions, we get that. We also get that he develops a rapport with the kids he coaches. But after Nick has taken measures to be a little more selfless, the end of the film takes whatever goodwill you might have had at that point and throws it on the ground. All the while Frears takes two fingers and sticks them in your face as if to say "Sod Off!"
So no, Coach is less an entertaining movie in the sports-light romance vein and more of a sad effort to entice some people who might have been swept up in the World Cup moment to watch an uninspired film with a guy that they may recognize. You're better off watching films that are similar in story but are at least, you know, funny.
Coach is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it sure looks like an independent film. By that, I mean it's excessively grainy to the point of distraction. Blacks tend to crush quite a bit and detail is lacking, and there appeared to be some haloing of characters from time to time. The DVD could have used a little more care and thought put into it; maybe the crew didn't care about this as much as the cast did.
You have a choice of an average, two-channel stereo track and a substandard 5.1 surround track. When toggling through both soundtracks on the fly, the two-channel captures the action and dialogue a little bit better, which isn't saying much for the sound recording of the feature. The surround option takes marginal to non-existent advantage of the rear channels, and the subwoofer stays sleepy throughout the film. A rather "meh" effort.
Nothing, except trailers for From Paris With Love, The Good Guy, Ball And Chain, Man About Town, Taking Chances and Still Waiting.
Still swept up in World Cup fever are you? Like most fevers, you at least don't have to sweat this one out, as Coach is boring, unfunny and an exercise in your sanity. That is, if you haven't stabbed yourself with a pair of scissors by the end of the film. If you like Hugh Dancy, this isn't even worth your time. Walk on by friends.