Mike Bassett: England Manager Reviews
'Do I not like that'! :oD
With three games left in their World Cup qualification program, he needs to win just one of them to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil. Easier said than done. His England squad are a bunch of misfits. Centre back Wacko (Geoff Bell) is a violent 32 year old with more red cards than yellow, his midfield duo of Deano and Danny (John Alford - "Grange Hill", "London's Burning" and Dean Holness) are bereft of brain cells, star striker Smallsy (Robbie Gee) hasn't scored for two years and midfield genius Tonka, has a habit of self-destructing.
His coaching team are not much better. His assistant manager, Lonnie (Philip Jackson), is a used car salesman and coach Dave Dodds (Walsh - TVs "Wheel of Fortune", "Night and Day") is the ultimate "yes man".
The fans are dubious about Bassett as are the media. Tommo Thompson (Jupitus - TVs "Never Mind the Buzzcocks") is one such reporter, reasonable in his assertions and criticisms but perpetual in his desire to run Bassett out of the job. And there is plenty of ammunition for everyone as the team's performances go from bad to worse. But will Mike Bassett do the honourable thing and resign?
We keep tabs on Bassett's progress due to a "fly on the wall" documentary team who follow his every move. The documentary is narrated by Martin Bashir, who many will now recognise as the man who stuck nails in the coffin of Michael Jackson recently.
This is of course very similar to the "Do I Not Like That?" documentary that was produced on former England manager Graham Taylor in the early ninties. And if you look closely you can see that the Dave Dodds character is a parody of his assistant manager, Phil Neal, while the midfield talisman, Tonka, is clearly inspired by Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne.
But aside from all these obvious observations, the question is does "Mike Bassett: England Manager" entertain?
Well, not really. There's no doubt there are some amusing moments. The scene where the open-top bus (bringing the team through Norwich after the Mr Clutch Cup victory) takes a wrong turn is ultimately one of the best scenes. And Bassett's team selection goes haywire when his PA calls up everyone in the squad whom he has written on the back of a fag packet. Everyone.
But these moments are few and far between. If it wasn't for Tomlinson's superb portrayal of a limited but honest human, the movie would have fallen flat. Tomlinson's tries to bring some pathos to the character via his relationship with his family and a poetic appeal for calm on live TV. It doesn't quite work but one can see that it is not his fault.
Irish director Steve Barron ("Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", "Coneheads" as well as a-ha's most famous videos such as 'Take On Me' and 'The Sun Always Shines On TV') enjoys the documentary-approach and uses graphics and at times mimics a music video by using two or three different scenes on screen at the one time. It doesn't really add to much to the movie but he does he best to spice up a flat script.
"Mike Bassett: England Manager" is a time-waster and not a particularly good one at that. It's watchable, but my advice would be to rent "Fever Pitch" instead.
Probably the best element of the film is the direction, the use of mockumentary for a football manager is an original idea, possibly inspired by a similar supposed documentary about Graham Taylor in 1994. It is good to see it from the Managerâ(TM)s point of view for once where he is destroyed for every little thing he does, and the movie stands up well even today when looking at how England Managers are treated. The supporting cast arenâ(TM)t particularly memorable, and sometimes are very one-dimensional, but then, so are most footballers, which probably makes the film suit more.
Overall, an okay film, mostly best for the style of direction and the âIfâ? speech.
Pity the potential is lost at points in and get's boring, but it still keeps it going and results in a good film
One for the future: Dean Lennox Kelly
Stand-out scene: The Hand of God 2
Brainer or no-brainer: Brainer
Stands up to one viewing or repeated?: Repeated
DVD commentary any good?: n/a
I saw and loved the expletive-riddled Channel 4 documentary on the then England manager Graham 'Turnip' Taylor which was perhaps the catalyst for the development of this movie. It takes a mock documentary approach shadowing the trials and tribulations of the Mike Bassett (formerly of Norwich CIty) newly-appointed to the top coaching job for the national side. Riddled with in-jokes and football-related irony (the pick of which was the Hand of God 2), Shameless's Dean Lennox Kelly swaps his Manc accent for Geordie in a Gazza pastiche (he's such an easy target the jokes come thick and fast) and there's a role for comedian/DJ Phill Jupitus as a pessimistic reporter. Ricky Tomlinson is ideal as the embittered manager plucked from obscurity (no offence to Norwich) who makes a series of Turnip-headed decisions (I particularly liked him writing the names of the team on the back of a fag packet leading to the ageing, lower division players Benson and Hedges being recalled into the side). Ex- pro footballer Bradley Walsh gets a role as Bassett's right-hand man and there's a myriad of cameo appearances throughout the movie. The Wembley pitch was relaid for this movie, Forrest Gump-style technology deployed to expand the 600 extras that formed the crowd into a stadium full. Enjoyable.