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While there are a lot of crossdressing comedies in which men dress up as women, women masquerading as men isn't nearly as common. But now here comes the family-friendly 2008 comedy SOCCER MOM to help fill the niche. It's no MRS. DOUBTFIRE or TOOTSIE, and it's certainly a far cry from THE CRYING GAME, but it'll probably keep your kids out of trouble for about an hour-and-a-half.
Haley Joel Osment's little sister Emily ("Hannah Montana", SPY KIDS 2 and 3) plays Becca, a middle-schooler whose dad coached her soccer team until his untimely demise. Now the heartsick and troubled kid must deal with her loss, along with a strained relationship with her frazzled mom Wendy (GALAXY QUEST's "Jane Doe", Missi Pyle) and the fact that her soccer team is now stuck in last place.
Things start looking up when her inept soccer coach, Kenny (Steve Hytner, "Seinfeld"'s ever-popular Kenny "It's gold, Jerry--gold!" Banya) promises the girls that his friend, world-famous Italian soccer star Lorenzo Vincenzo (Dan Cortese), is coming to replace him as the team's coach. But when it turns out that Lorenzo has no intention of coaching a girl's soccer team, Emily's mom Wendy comes to the rescue by disguising herself as him and serving as an inspiration to the team. Trouble is, this means Wendy can no longer show up as herself to support Emily, who feels increasingly neglected and distant toward her.
While there are a few moments of awkward melodrama along the way (the "You suck, Mom" scene comes to mind), most of SOCCER MOM is light, fluffy comedy that doesn't come close to the dizzying heights of wackyness we used to get from those old Disney comedies like FREAKY FRIDAY and SUPERDAD, but is still harmless fun. In fact, it's like an extended episode of some latter-day Disney Channel series, which should please the fans of that sort of thing.
Storywise, we get pretty much exactly the kind of zany complications you'd imagine from this premise, and they're all resolved in equally predictable fashion. There's the inevitable sequence in which Wendy and Lorenzo must both appear at the same championship game, leading to lots of quick changes and narrow escapes and is further complicated when the real Lorenzo shows up. Along the way we also get to see Wendy's male incarnation being hit on by her amorous friend Dee Dee, and what happens during a "guys' night out" when the real Lorenzo makes an appearance at the same bar.
Wendy, of course, manages to lead the team on the road to victory as Lorenzo, while dreading the inevitable moment when she must reveal her deception to Emily. And the final game between their team and the current champs, a group of snarky Malibu girls who are seemingly invincible on the field, is pretty much by-the-numbers.
Emily Osment doesn't display much of her big brother's acting depth here, but is good in a role that doesn't really require it. Hytner manages to be even smarmier than Kenny Banya, and Dan Cortese is pretty funny as the egotistical womanizer Lorenzo. The big draw here, though, is watching Missi Pyle's earnest and highly amusing impersonation of him. The makeup is great (Wendy's hairstyling co-worker just happens to moonlight as a movie makeup-effects artist), and aside from the fact that her voice is still way too high, she manages to pull off the deception quite convincingly.
SOCCER MOM is just what I expected it to be--a lightweight farce that your kids should get a kick out of (soccer...kick...get it?) and that you might find a rather pleasant diversion as well.
Added: Thursday, September 18, 2008
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