Golden Shoes is a rather heavy-handed treatment of an issue that crops up in all different kinds of settings; that is, bullying. The writer Norman Koza and co-writer/director Lance Kawas have in mind to create movies dealing with bullying and child abuse. They want children to be inspired by them, particularly those interested in soccer and those who have lost parents or are children of veterans. A big agenda, which turns out to be a weakness of Golden Shoes in that it tries to incorporate all these causes in one film.
Christian (Koza) is a young boy whose father is away fighting a war and he lives with his mother Kathleen (Meyer) in a small town. He has developed a passion for soccer, but is only the ball boy on the local team. His supercilious neighbor Frank (Roberts) who is recently a widower clearly has eyes for Christian’s mother, and offers her whatever assistance she needs. All she has to do is call him. But also clearly, he has no interest in fostering a relationship with Christian. Kathleen and Christian recognize this and take a dim view of him, but they do need for him to take Christian to soccer practice sometimes. Unfortunately, when Kathleen is seriously injured in a car accident, she must rely on Frank to take care of Christian.
Frank is a bully, as are his two sons, and when they taunt Christian on the way to practices, their father says and does nothing. Frank is also a bully to soccer coach Dominic (DeLuise), In a thinly veiled plan, he has lent the coach money, and from that, expects his sons to be in every game, although at least one of them is not very good. But the coach has some sensitivity, and knowing that Christian’s father is away and his mother injured, he wants to give Christian a chance, which involves taking one of Frank’s son’s out when he wants to put Christian in.
The “golden shoes” refers to some woeful soccer shoes Christian is given for free (after Frank strong-arms the salesman at the shoe store). In a mysterious twist, the shoes take on a “golden” quality when Christian practices in them and hits the target, which he cannot seem to do with ordinary shoes.
From here, the film takes a predicted turn when Christian becomes a hero, not just locally but internationally. The President of the United States becomes involved, and upon hearing Christian’s story, works hard to find his father who is MIA.
I could admire aspects of this film—addressing bullying that takes place in an everyday situation, a boy needing to cope without a father, but with a supportive mother—his learning about his own talents that are not magical but ones he has worked hard for, the machinations of a jealous parent, the goalie making friends with Christian for their mutual benefit and trying to forego candy at Christian’s reasonable arguments against it, a coach with humane sensitivity, and a neighbor who is won over by politeness and charm.
However, the script is the weakest link in Golden Shoes. The lines written for kids simply don’t sound the way kids talk. When people are supposed to be comforting, they sound bossy (e.g., the nurse telling the mother in the hospital that she needs to buckle up for her son). And by the way, how is it that Christian never visits his mother in the hospital? There were scenes that showed Frank simply not answering her calls, but the mother had many supports at the hospital who could have seen that Christian visited her. She is such a loving mother I cannot fathom her staying in the hospital so long without having Christian come to visit her. In the end, the script as a whole ends up being so “pie in the sky” it strains credibility.
A film that tries so hard to be inspirational it ends up not being credible.
Grade: C- By Donna R. Copeland