When I first saw the trailers for this movie, I admit that I groaned. It was the one animated movie I was definitely willing to skip if I could. But then when it never came out in theaters in the U.S. and continued to get pushed back, I wondered if it was just that bad. I managed to get my hands on the original Argentinian version and if the American or British dubbed versions are anything like the original, I only have one word to describe the movie: Bizarre!
For one, the animation does seem a bit wonky, but it's understandable. After all, this is technically a 2013 movie only recently being dubbed to be distributed in the UK and U.S. for 2015. So, I will not focus on the animation style. The story, however, should rightfully be fair game. For one, the story is unfocused. The movie first starts off as a father telling his son a story. The story is about a young boy with a passion for Foosball. This boy with a passion for Foosball is our main hero, but there are huge chunks of the film where he is absolutely absent in his own story and instead the film focuses on the multiple stereotype miniature Foosball players that come to life right off the table. While some of this tiny characters are interesting and sometimes funny, they do take away from the main hero's arch when we don't see our main hero for several minutes. Hell, the first time this happened during the dump scene, I kept asking, "Where's our main character in all of this? Where did he go?" It's distracting.
There is also very little sense of a major overall conflict or danger. In the trailer we see the main conflict of the film. Young hero beats young bully at a Foosball match, bully gets famous as a football player (soccer player here in the U.S.), the bully comes back to the little town now owning it and wanting to tear it down and build a stadium, hero tries to save the town with a rematch, bully chooses to play real football (soccer), miniature Foosball players come to life to help the hero and the towns people to save the town. Except, this is not all true. Him beating the bully at Foosball while they were young and the bully growing up wanting revenge is all true. He even buys the town to build a stadium over it just because that Foosball match was the only time he was ever defeated. Yeah, his entire motivation is only because he's a sore looser. But the challenge does not happen when the bully comes back. No, instead he tears down the bar with the Foosball table in it, sends the Foosball table to the dump, and then kidnaps the hero's love without a challenge happening. Our hero cries from his loss of the Foosball table and the love of his life which is what brings all the miniature Foosball players to life (somehow, it never gives any sort of explanation on how it happens). The next third or more of the film is him just trying to get back his Foosball table and the players from the dump and then a carnival (of all things). Both of those scenes barely has our main hero in them. It isn't until he finally decides to try and save his KIDNAPPED girlfriend that the challenge finally happens! The main conflict we get in the trailer is the first and last third of the movie, roughly.
The tone feels random as well. It will randomly get dark and horrific out of nowhere with the dump and carnival scenes. There are hairless rats that try to devour the tiny miniature men like a survival horror movie and a demented clown the gets close to the screen as if meaning intentionally to scare the audience in the theater! And then you also get a bizarre scene where you learn the bully has a lab where he splices animal genes with sports items to get pigeons with banner tails and ostriches with literally soccer shoes for beaks. That's just a taste of how bizarre the film can get. There are also a few sexual reference jokes, the kind in animated films that would go over kids head, but these ones are uncomfortable to watch.
There is a message that I believe speaks more for the cultures this film was meant for. There is a theme about Foosball vs soccer video games and such. Old vs new, and the young being able to appreciate the old way. it made apparent in the reasons this father is telling the story to his boy and making the Foosball table seem as magical as possible. But for a person that's never grew up playing Foosball and who does not enjoy sports of any kind (let alone soccer, since it's not big her in the US), it's something that doesn't move or affect me all that much.
I have to say the one saving grace of the film is the soccer match (though the stakes and the reasons for the challenge is unclear. After all, they are playing in the stadium used to build over the town... so, what are they playing for? Honor? Is that the only stakes?). It is the most exciting part of the film and honestly feels like it's finally realized what is was meant to be all along. Nearly everything in that soccer match is great. I just wish there was more stakes involved and I wish the rest of the film could be as good as the last third of the film.