When the stress of the job gives the manager of England's national football team a stroke, the call goes out to Europe to find a quality manager to take over. When that call goes unanswered the FA are forced to look within the English game and, having been turned down by everyone else, employ Division 1 manager Mike Bassett who has just won the cup with Norwich. With three games left and one win needed to get into the World Cup finals, can Mike's strategy of the standard 4-4-2, aggressive old-school captain and rubbish penalty takers see the team through the qualification stages? This film was pretty well timed when it was released because, with Sven in charge it looked like the days of uninspiring old-school English football managers who shout and swear were long over and so it was easier to laugh at the "old days" being sent up by this film. Of course watching it now, jokes about England underachieving are perhaps not that funny (although as a Northern Ireland supporter I can always find a chuckle when it comes to English misfortune). However, if you are a follower of football in England then this film will be enjoyable even if it is pretty basic and lines up loads of easy targets from the start. The actual "plot" is not that good and the cracks do begin to show in the final third when it goes from a series of jokes to try and become an actual narrative but, aside from these problems it surprised me by how entertaining it was. Of course I wasn't roaring with laughter but it sent up plenty of easy targets and had enough going for it to keep me consistently amused and interested and, as with all sports movies, the "must win" game with pumping music is always an easy thing to pull out of the bag.
The cast are fairly obvious and it is no wonder that none of them were mentioned when the awards ceremonies came around. Tomlinson is a convincing old-style manager who sends up Graham Taylor in particular with his comparison to vegetables and his swearing rants. He brings out some compassion from the character although I felt that the subplot with his family suffering abuse was poorly handled and seemed out of place. Support is good with the targets all covered, from the old men of the FA to the bloodlust journalists and fighting English thugs. None of them really do anything special but Walsh, Jackson, Jupitus and others are supported well with cameos from Pele, Basir and a few others.
Overall this isn't a particularly clever film but it has plenty of easy targets to aim at and it does manage to hit most of them. It isn't hilarious but I found it consistently amusing throughout, although it did weaken a bit towards the end. Outside of football fans and those with a knowledge of England I can't imagine this film going down too well but if you are in both of those camps then it is likely that you'll enjoy this even if it is fairly basic stuff.