Just mention the name Pelé and, football fan or not, you know who he is. Now this Brazilian football legend has had a movie made in his honour, and fans are pumped about its release. However, film critics are having a field day as the opposition.
Pelé: Birth of a Legend follows Pelés life, from his impoverished childhood in a favela in Sao Paulo, to his meteoric rise to glory as the 17-year-old who scored the winning goal at the World Cup in 1958. It was Brazil’s first ever World Cup victory. This is the story of how Pelé developed his authentic, yet unorthodox, ginga style of play; how he overcame the odds to discover greatness, and how his never-say-die spirit became a form of inspiration that is still in play today in ‘the beautiful game’.
Actor Vincent D’Onofrio was cast as the Brazilian team’s World Cup coach Feola, while Diego Boneta plays Jose, Pelé’s arch rival who also gave him the nickname ‘Pelé’ when they were children (by the way, Pelé’s real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento!). Newcomer Kevin de Paula plays Pelé age 13-17, while another unknown, Leonardo Lima Carvalho, plays him at the age of 10.
Pelé was more than happy with the boys who were cast, stating: ‘The two young actors who play my younger self will be true stars, as their skills both on screen and on the football pitch proved.’
Pelé even makes a cameo appearance in the film. After one of the actors who plays him almost runs into him in a hotel lobby, Pelé turns to the camera, utters a single line and provides his trademark charismatic grin.
But while this film has all the markings for greatness (albeit with a little cheese), the reviews so far have been far from great.
US critic Nick Prigge says: ‘Pelé’s true sense of self is really only glimpsed in a flashback where, too poor to afford an actual soccer ball, he trains with mangoes. This sequence visually illustrates how his roots directly informed the way he played, an evocation of ginga that Pelé: Birth of a Legend never duplicates in such a warmly effective manner again. Here, he feels like the joyful original the rest of the film never lets him be.’
Movie Nation goes on to state: ‘Pelé is bland, Hollywood-zed (in Brazilian/Portuguese-accented English), a sometimes entertaining, dazzling-on-the-field biography built around an utterly colorless lead performance.’ Also: ‘Here, the glorious life lived within “the beautiful game” is more a static painting than a colorful, animated celebration of a legend whose footwork and infectious grin won the world over.’
And then there’s this from US movie reviewer Josh: ‘The film, which dutifully recounts his extraordinary journey from a Brazilian slum to overnight superstardom as a result of — spoiler alert! — Brazil’s first ever World Cup victory in 1958, will no doubt please aficionados of “the beautiful game”, as Pelé famously dubbed it. Unfortunately, it lacks the spark necessary to appeal to non-fans.’
Written and directed by Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist, Pelé: Birth of a Legend will be released in the US this Friday 6 May. Until the film arrives here in Aus, (if it doesn’t go straight to DVD, that is) perhaps you’d like to watch the trailer and judge for yourself…
Starring: Kevin de Paula, Leonardo Lima Carvalho, Seu Jorge, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rodrigo Santoro, Diego Boneta, Colm Meany
Runtime: 107 minutes
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this film once you see it. Share your own review in the comments below.