Feelgood Legends needs reality check


**1/2

Directed by Khoa Do

You might have already heard the guys behind Footy Legends are also responsible for no-budget docu-drama The Finished People. As you first emerge from the theatre, you might have a hard time believing it.

Their 2003 debut was a downbeat chronicle of desperation among the homeless of Sydney’s western suburbs, people that exist in any big city.

Footy Legends seems cut from the other end of the storytelling cloth, a gleeful story of hope, triumph over adversity and joy of the ties that bind.

It’s not until later you realise the young Vietnamese-born filmmakers Khoa and Anh Do have in fact used the exact same backdrop of urban poverty and economic disenfranchisement, but transplanted it to a whole new genre.

Footy Legends wears its heart delightedly on its sleeve as it tells the story of a group of misfit friends in Sydney’s west who all seem left behind by the economic boom of the last 15 years.

Led by Luc (Anh Do), the guys have one passion they use to escape their unforgiving circumstances – rugby league. When they decide to enter a corporate-sponsored weekend tournament, the boys see it as their chance for redemption and glory and we’re treated to a Rocky-like underdog tale designed to warm your heart all the way through.

The star and director wrote the screenplay and have done a good job of managing a mutli-stranded structure. Where they’re less successful is grounding the story in realism, which they could have done using a bit more subtlety.

The entire plot is well-worn and could have done with some spikes of difference that set it apart from A Star is Born, Rocky, 8 Mile and a million other little-guy-makes-it movies.

Some of the writing and dialogue is also fairly juvenile and cliché seeps in more than once as we’re treated to another rousing speech about working together or the importance of family backed by swelling and inspirational music.

Some smaller subplots are dropped with no resolution, rendering them mostly redundant to the story. Logic also meanders and we’re asked to suspend disbelief a little too far at times. For instance, as Luc expects a win in a weekend footy competition to make everything in life all right, including staving off a community services hearing to take his young sister away.

What’s more – if you want to get really pedantic – movies about people who go months without finding work of any kind might have been timely in the early nineties, but they don’t really wash anymore.

But no amount of seriousness, realism or logic seems to be the Dos’ concern. They’re aiming squarely for the audience who made The Castle a smash. If you like a movie with some laughs and some tears, some salt of the Earth characters from the other Australia rather than that of Crocodile Dundee and Priscilla and an enduring sense that good things happen to good people, Footy Legends has you in its sights.


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