Welcome to Animation Globe where HeadStuff’s animation expert Joseph Learoyd analyses films of the form from around the world. This entry is on 2013 Argentinian animation Metegol
Loosely based on Roberto Fontanarrosa’s short story Memorias de un wing derechoa, Metegol is a Spanish language animated film from 2013 – released in English under the names Underdogs for the US dub and The Unbeatables for the UK dub – and focuses on the sport of football. A computer-generated film, Metegol stars the likes of Rupert Grint and Rob Brydon for the UK release, while the US version’s cast includes Mel Brooks and Ariana Grande.
Now, to be honest, Metegol is a pretty boring film. The purpose of Animation Globe is to take a deep dive into foreign animated films that I may not have been exposed to before and try to get an understanding for the visual style, cultural background and overall thematic reach of a country within a film. Although football is an important part of British culture, the dubbing here is poor, rewritten elements that were made not to fit the original vision of the film but rather to make the lip sync match up, and I can’t help but feel like the original charm of this film was lost because of it.
Metegol was co-written and directed by Juan J. Campanella, the winner of the 2009 best foreign language film Oscar for his film The Secret in their Eyes. The career jump from serious live action to child friendly animation was a strange choice. That said, it is something that can be admired in the film industry to be able to diversify oneself in the chosen genre and branch out to other dissimilar projects.
The film itself doesn’t quite work. The animation isn’t anything spectacular, despite having a distinct style that stands out visually, and the plot, wacky as it is, feels poorly paced and a bit muddled overall – again, likely thanks to the dubbing choices that only serve to confuse the audience.
The story centers around a young boy, Amadeo, madly in love with both foosball and his female friend Laura. However, following the return of a villainous football player, Amadeo must learn to play football from his foosball figurines, who come to life to train him in order save his village from the antagonistic footballer. This all seems a bit wild and for a children’s animated film, that’s okay. The latter half of the film is arguably better than the first, giving us a football match that, even though feels flat in comparison with other animated sports movies, manages to at least have some elements of suspense and flowing animation.
Metegol did really well in its native Argentina and took the number one spot at the box office upon release, a testament maybe not to the story itself but rather to the heart of the culture and the support the country has for a native film. The film is weird because it feels just like every other football film. The magical foosball element works, but the high concept ends up falling flat when the film goes down the generic route of all the other sports films. The film becomes about forming a team and falls into oblivion, a mess of a film that struggles to finds its footing.
Is Metegol funny? No. Is it well written? No. It is not a good movie. Maybe this is because of the target audience. Maybe it is because of the football elements, likely not reaching many people, hell, it might be because of the language differences, who knows? Also, two English dubs feel like a waste of money.
With all the problems that Metegol has, it manages to retain some sense of charm, but this is one film that is probably worth avoiding, which that pains me to say. It could just be so much better – hopefully, in its original Spanish dub, it is.