Soccer Dog: European Cup tells the story of Kimble, a genetically engineered super dog which escapes from a lab and joins a plucky but poor-quality Scottish football club. The Portersburgh Portsmen have won just two games in four years, and their captain Bryan MacGregor “ played by Nick Moran of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels fame “ is down on his luck. As well as leading his team of not-very-loveable misfits, he missed out on a chance to play for a top football club and now describes himself as the innkeeper of a claggy, minging pub.
But all that starts to change when his long-lost son “ 13-year-old Zach “ arrives from America to live with him. At first Zach hates Scotland (even making a reference to the Third World) but once he finds Kimble in a car park and takes him home “ without even looking around for an owner “ he starts warming to his new life.
There are many reasons this sequel to Soccer Dog: The Movie should never have been made, but two stand out above the rest.
The first is football. Calling the beautiful game soccer annoys many British fans, but let’s not be snobby. Whatever you call it “ football, soccer, Japanese disco chess “ this film is as bad as the World Cup is good. It’s the anti-Messi, the anti-Ronaldo.
Soccer Dog: European Cup only features two actual matches “ an early defeat to Loch Ness and a thrilling climax against the European champions “ fantastically named the London Bangers. In game one the referee sends off the entire Portersburgh team when one player calls him a sheep hugger. For those of you not familiar with soccerball as played in the UK and worldwide, that’s fairly draconian refereeing.
Game two raises the ridiculousness to worrying levels, pitting the four-time European champions against the Highland no-hopers. The friendly match comes about after branded products released by London Banger Alex Foote “ a former Portersburgh player “ turn out to be tested on animals. His publicist thinks playing against a team containing a dog will repair the reputational damage, and the Bangers duly arrive on an open-topped London red bus. But a pub argument between Foote and his former friend MacGregor which leads him to bet the European Cup on the outcome of the game. Again, for those of you not familiar with football, that’s just bloody ridiculous (even in a film with a football-playing genius dog).
The second major victim of Soccer Dog is Scotland. After some early scene-setters which sweep some Scottish(ish) landscape, the film is clearly shot in a hot climate a long way south of Hadrian’s Wall. It’s much more California than Caledonia. The accents too make it hard to know what continent “ or planet “ the film is set on. Moran leads from the back with a Scottish accent worthy of fake-Cockney legend Dick Van Dyke, and many of the other accents are simply bizarre. At one point Portersburgh’s goalkeeper “ William Wallace “ slips through about nine variations in three sentences, finishing on something like Jamaican. In another heavy handed Braveheart reference, Portersburgh’s petrol station bears the slogan: They can take our petrol but they’ll never take our freedom. There’s also a poke in the eye for England, with a written reference to the county of Sussix (that should be Sussex).
But let’s be fair “ the film isn’t all bad. It might just be because the rest of it batters your standards down, but the parts when the dog plays football are actually quite entertaining. You find out early on that Kimble has an IQ higher than the average man, and his tricks and flicks are a joy to behold. The computer-generated ball is not the best special effect you’ll ever see, but this isn’t Avatar and it’s not bad given what must have been a limited budget. The film has a good heart and a decent story at its centre, and despite the accents it’s possible to feel some affinity with a few of the characters. It’s no classic, but it’s not a world’s worst movie contender either. If you like football or have ever heard a real Scottish accent you’d best avoid this. Otherwise, enjoy!