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There's Only One Jimmy Grimble review

There's Only One Jimmy Grimble
12certificate 12
Running time: 90 minutes
Starring: Lewis McKenzie, Gina McKee, Ray Winstone, Bobby Power, Robert Carlyle, Jane Lapotaire
Rating 6 out of 10

It's no wonder that film directors continue to be fascinated by football - the beautiful game is remarkably similar to the movie-making process: hours of behind the scenes preparation distilled into 90 minutes of elation and tears.

John Hays's feelgood drama uses football as a device to teach its 15-year-old hero important lessons in life, such as about believing in yourself and following your heart.

Troubled teen Jimmy (Lewis McKenzie) dreams of one day becoming a professional footballer. Living in Manchester with his mother Donna (Gina McKee), recently separated from his father Harry (Ray Winstone), he is the sole City fan in a school of United supporters, making him an easy target for ridicule from bully Gorgeous Gordon Burley (Bobby Power).

Jimmy would dearly love to try out for the team but whenever he plays in front of an audience, he seems to lose all of his confidence and co-ordination. His gym teacher Eric Wirral (Robert Carlyle) is no use whatsoever: bored with his job and another easy target for Gorgeous Gordon's sharp tongue.

A twist of fate brings Jimmy into the team as substitute but Gordon and his cronies don't want him on the side, and throw away his boots. Desperate to prove himself, Jimmy accepts a battered old pair of football boots from a kind homeless woman (Jane Lapotaire), who claims they used to belong to a legendary City striker called Robbie Brewer.

Gordon is injured in the first match against the thuggish Wreckingham and Jimmy is drafted in as his replacement.

To everyone's amazement (not least his own), Jimmy scores the winning goal and the team move forward to the next round. Jimmy and his supposedly magic boots revitalise Greenock's morale and help the team to progress to the final against the mighty Huntingdon, to be played at Maine Road.

Unfortunately, all of Grimble's success has rather taken the spotlight away from Gordon, who hatches a plan to keep his sworn rival off the pitch for the big game.

There's Only One Jimmy Grimble is incredibly predictable, treading in the stud-marks of countless other rites-of-passage and sports movies. You just know that Jimmy will come through in the dying seconds to win the cup for his school, and that love will blossom once again for Donna and Harry.

Even so, the picture hits all the right emotional notes and forces us to care about the plight of these people.

McKenzie, who has never acted on screen before, has a freshness and innocence in front of the camera which anchors the picture. McKee and Winstone are servicable as Jimmy's mother and father, but Carlyle looks awkward in his role as the disaffected school teacher with a secret past.

Hays' direction of the footballing scenes goes some way to replicating the energy, exhilaration and exhaustion of a match.

One of the film's major flaws is that the boots turn the sweet and kind Jimmy into a selfish and almost arrogant so-and-so. As a result, he's not always the most sympathetic or likeable hero. When Gordon finally gets rid of the magic boots, you can't help but feel strangely glad, because the insecure but generous Jimmy of old can make a last gasp reappearance, to the deafening roar of the crowd.

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