Starring: Ricky Tomlinson, Bradley Walsh, Philip Jackson
Director: Steve Barron
Running Time: 89 mins
Mike Bassett: England Manager is a British film about a lower-league manager who is given the England job in the build-up to the World Cup, and after scraping through qualifying, he pushes through all sorts of ineptitude and the team bungle their way through the first games of the tournament, amidst intense media pressure and anger from the fans.
I really enjoyed this film. Not only is it a silly and light-hearted affair, complete with a fantastic parody of real events, but it’s also a film that delivers its premise pretty much perfectly, along with good comedy, fun performances, and even a surprising ability to make football work well on the big screen, which we really don’t see all that often.
However, let’s start off with the film’s best feature: the comedy. From start to finish, the movie is filled with fantastically funny jokes, energetic and entertaining performances, and a consistently strong central premise that brilliantly plays on the trials and tribulations of one of the most stressful jobs in the world: England manager.
It’s a premise that those in Britain, and particularly England fans, will be able to appreciate, given the experience of various World Cup build-ups and the immense toll they take on the entire country, not to mention the man at the centre of the storm. There’s a brilliant irony throughout as we watch a man go through hell at the hands of the media and the fans in what is meant to be the most prestigious position in the land, and that makes for both hilarious and strikingly true comedy throughout, something that those who know the situation will undoubtedly love to see.
But you don’t just have to be an England fan to enjoy this movie, because it’s still got a great sense of humour in general as well. For one, the lead performance by Ricky Tomlinson as Mike Bassett himself is hilarious, and he perfectly embodies everything about so many England managers, as well as a lovable but rather flawed man thrown in at the deep end of football management, ending up with all sorts of hilarious hijinks and mishaps from start to finish.
So, if you’re looking for a funny movie to get you in the mood for the World Cup, then this is exactly the film for you. However, Mike Bassett: England Manager actually manages to impress beyond its comedic side, as it manages to bring football to the big screen in an effective and entertaining way, the likes of which we really don’t see all that often.
Unlike a lot of other sports, baseball, basketball, tennis, American football etc, football just isn’t suited to being in films. There are only a handful of really good films about football, because it’s simply is rather difficult to film the sport in an exciting and dramatic way in the context of a narrative story.
However, what this film does really well is that it balances its focus on the on-pitch and off-pitch action perfectly. Much like the brilliant The Damned United, this film is all about how the characters react to the events on the pitch, with most of the drama coming from that side of the story, rather than simply what the score is and who scores when.
In comparison, the likes of Goal!, which is far more focused on the on-pitch action, doesn’t offer the same sort of fluid narrative as this, so that’s why I was really surprised by this movie, as it brings a sport that’s often unsuccessful on the big screen to life in an effective and engaging way.
In short, I had a lot of fun with Mike Bassett: England Manager, and even though it occasionally doesn’t manage to impress on a deeper emotional level as it often tries to do, it’s a hugely funny comedy complete with an undeniably true story, and one that any England fan will understand very, very well, which is why I’m giving it a 7.9 overall.