The amazing story of Brazilian sports icon Pelé, possibly the greatest footballer that ever lived is packaged as a showy, rousing crowd-pleaser that succeeds despite its clichés. Focused on his early years, up until his spectacular debut on the global stage, at 17 in the 1958 World Cup, Pelé: Birth of a Legend is a formulaic by-the-numbers biopic, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.
Story: a fairly comprehensive and stirring story about a personality in football who needs no introduction. His meteoric rise to fame and the playing style he popularized originated in the slums of Sao Paulo. He is an example of what determination and perseverance can lead to. Even grinding poverty couldn’t keep him from his pursuing his passion and create a name for himself in history.
Review by CRB Tech: Right from the outset, this film goes in making an emotional connection with the audience. A lot of time is devoted to depicting Pele’s childhood and his passion for the game. Pelé was born in Três Corações, Minas Gerais, Brazil, elder of two siblings; the son of Fluminense footballer Dondinho and Celeste Arantes. Pele was named after the American inventor Edison .
Owing to his poverty, purchasing a football was out of his financial reach. But nothing in this world could stop him from realizing his dream. Indeed, after Brazil’s devastating loss in the 1950 World Cup final, a saddened nine-year-old Dico makes the bold and unlikely promise to his father that someday he will go on to win a World Cup for Brazil.
Jeff and Michael Zimbalist took care to depict Pele’s own, unique and original style of playing i.e. Ginga. The playing style is almost rhythmic in its flow, which was very different from the rather methodical style of other teams at that time. AR Rahman’s music goes a long way towards translating the game’s buoyancy on screen. And when Pele does dribble the ball, it looks like he’s dancing with it. These are some of the highlights of the movie.
What can bog the movie down at times though is that it can get a bit clumsy. The very same emotion that it goes for, can make it a bit sloppily sentimental at times. The movie’s trajectory is also a bit predictable and you should know that this cinema focuses quite squarely on his early life.
But critically, until the very end the film never manages to give us a real sense of the man whose life it celebrates. Kevin de Paula Rosa, cast as the teenage Pelé, manages the headers, the stunning kicks, and the amazing moves that made the Brazilian athlete world famous, but he can’t seem to bring that childlike sense of delight for the game that made him unique.
The good points always outweigh the bad, and if you’re a football fan, you’ll realize why football’s ‘the beautiful game’ description came to be associated with Pele.
Pele: Birth of a Legend
Directors: Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist
Cast: Vincent D’Onofrio, Rodrigo Santoro, Diego Boneta, Leonardo Lima Carvalho, Kevin de Paula, Sue Jorge
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