American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I am unspeakably bored by the prospect of writing a review in which I observe that "The Big Green" is a retread of "The Mighty Ducks." You know this, I know this, and without a doubt the people at Walt Disney Pictures know this, which is why they commissioned the project. "The Big Green" does for soccer what "Ducks" (1992) did for ice hockey, which was not very much, although it was more than the sequel "D2: The Mighty Ducks" (1994).
So let's provide an obligatory summary, and move on. Here goes: This is another formula movie in which a team of small-town misfits are inspired by their offbeat coach to master a sport. They start out incredibly bad. They are humiliated by the ace team from the big city, with the expensive black uniforms and the obsessive coach. Then they start getting better. No prizes for who wins their big rematch with the bad guys in black.
Why soccer? Because their teacher is from England, and is visiting tiny Elma, Texas, on an exchange program. She's good at soccer - or "football," as those zany Brits call it. Of course the class is a disorganized bunch of malcontents, but under the influence of this inspirational teacher and the discipline of the sport, they transform themselves. This will come as a shock to anyone who has not seen "Dangerous Minds," "The Dead Poets Society," and the countless other homages to the same idea.
Let's us write a movie. Pick a sport. How about lacrosse? Water polo? Curling? Then apply the formula. The kids in tiny Elko, Nevada, have never heard of water polo. Then they get an offbeat exchange teacher - the Mariner, visiting from "Waterworld," who teaches them water polo. Why water polo? Because he's good at it.