By Sarah Osman
Sometimes, cartoons should just be aimed at kids. The Soccer Football Movie has no pretensions: this is a glorious goof fest that draws on the hallowed tradition of slapstick comedy.
In recent years, animated films for children have been crafted to be more tolerable for adults. In addition to some impressive animation, they offer pleasures that adults gravitate to: exploration of serious existential themes and ambitious character arcs. Yes, that’s great for adults, but exploring crises isn’t always entertaining for kids. What’s happened to good old Looney Tunes-esque farce hijinks — with the pathetic exception of the catastrophe known as Space Jam 2? Sometimes, cartoons should just be aimed at kids. Thankfully, The Soccer Football Movie has no pretensions: this is a glorious goof fest that draws on the hallowed tradition of slapstick comedy.
The film begins with an announcer wondering who will win the All-Star Cup All-Star of all time, a joke that becomes funnier every time it’s floated. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is a Swedish soccer star, has a blast voicing the fictional version of himself. Ibrahimovic presents himself as an over-the-top narcissist who loves to show off, even for four underclass fans. These futbol enthusiasts are roughly between the ages of 10 and 12 and want nothing more than to meet their idols and go to the All-Star Cup All-Star of all time. (See? It’s so dumb it’s hilarious.) The adolescents are arguably the most boring part of the story, but someone has to be the straight man. They run a pest control service called “Creature Catchers” and are eventually tasked with saving the players from an evil scientist — “Weird Al” Yankovic, who is played by none other than Weird Al.
Weird Al has always prided himself on his absurdity (his recent “biopic” is the perfect example) and he’s more than game to play a fictional version of himself hell-bent on dominating soccer. Scientist Weird Al — who looks exactly like a younger version of the comedian — sends mutants housed in soccer balls to the most talented players. Once these critters transform into monsters, the madman uses them to harness just a bit of the athletes’ prowess. He wants to become the ultimate All-Star. Why does Weird Al want to do this? Who knows and who cares? Weird and crazy stuff happens in a Looney Tune world, and that is where this film wholeheartedly takes place. Watching animated characters take on generational trauma is helpful for kids and healing for adults. But enough already. Whatever happened to laughing at watching an anvil drop on the noggin of a “super genius” like Wile E Coyote?
Not all of the soccer players are handled by amazing voice actors. Megan Rapinoe lacks the manic energy of Ibrahimovic, but she’s certainly better than previous athletes-turned-actors (looking at you, Michael Jordan). Like a lot of the animation that is being churned out these days (looking at you, Netflix), the cartooning veers wildly from the impressive to the sloppy. Some sequences, such as when the mutants take over, are incredibly detailed; other sequences fall flat. More time and attention could have and probably should have been put into the look of The Soccer Football Movie but, considering how funny the film is, that is a quibble. This is a full-on weirdo camp fest and all the better for it.
The craziest moments in The Soccer Football Movie include Ibrahimovic’s ponytail coming to life (!) and a climax that ends with — what else — an epic soccer match. Don’t look for rhyme or reason here. Nor any logical explanation beyond quick profit to explain why this silliness got made in the first place. But after sitting through too many animated films that left me questioning my existence on earth, it’s high time we got a ridiculous romp designed to make us laugh without guilt.
Sarah Mina Osman is a writer residing in Wilmington, NC. In addition to writing for the Arts Fuse, she has written for Watercooler HQ, Huffington Post, HelloGiggles, Young Hollywood, and Matador Network, among other sites. Her work was included in the anthology Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences in the Trump Era. She is currently a first year fiction MFA candidate at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. When she’s not writing, she’s dancing, watching movies, traveling, or eating. She has a deep appreciation for sloths and tacos. You can keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram: @SarahMinaOsman