Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001)

Now that England has a canny Swede at the helm of the national team, the days of Keegan, Hoddle, et al, are almost a dim and distant memory. But lest it be forgotten what a laughing stock we used to be, along comes "Mike Bassett: England Manager", an astute and occasionally hilarious satire on our obsession with the beautiful game.

Ricky Tomlinson swaps Jim Royle's armchair for the Wembley dugout as the first gaffer from the lower divisions to become England manager. Needless to say, the appointment is a disaster. Antiquated tactics, inebriated players, and a venomous press core all threaten to send the squad crashing out of the World Cup qualifiers. Can Mike get his act together in time to save the day - and his job?

Shot in the familiar faux-documentary style of "People Like Us" and "This is Spinal Tap", Steve Barron's satire is complete with fly-on-the-wall footage, and sombre voiceover from Martin Bashir.

"Mike Bassett" takes aim at everything from Lancaster Gate to the Maracana stadium, with varying degrees of success, using stereotypes (Vinnie-style thugs, Gazza-esque bingers) and cameos (Atomic Kitten, Keith Allen, a bemused-looking Pelé) to provoke instant chortles of recognition. But the film's curious lack of ambition makes it a parochial affair that will probably only appeal to die-hard soccer nuts and their long-suffering partners.

But Tomlinson is always watchable, and the special effects employed to create the illusion of packed World Cup stadia, are very accomplished.

"Mike Bassett: England Manager" is released in UK cinemas on Friday 28th September.

If you're an avid fan or just interested in the game, check out the BBC's Football site.

End Credits

Director: Steve Barron

Writer: John R Smith, Rob Sprackling

Stars: Ricky Tomlinson, Amanda Redman, Philip Jackson, Bradley Walsh, Phill Jupitus, Pelé

Genre: Comedy

Length: 96 minutes

Cinema: 28 September 2001

Country: UK

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