Let's get this out of the way: For a movie about a girl trying to make the varsity boys' soccer team at her New Jersey high school in the late '70s, Gracie is about as stupid as it gets.
Whoa, whoa, whoa hold on there for a second, soccer moms. I wasn't done yet.
I'm not saying that the storyline of Gracie is the problem here. It's not.
Girls? Soccer? Triumph? Inspiration? I'm all for it. I love it, even. Mia Hamm, like, totally rocks!
My problems with Gracie are held within pretty much every other aspect of the film: the acting, the direction, the script you name it. How this movie got made is beyond my realm of comprehension.
When we first meet 15-year-old Gracie (Carly Schroeder), life's not great, but neither is it absolutely terrible. She's the black sheep of her family's four-kid litter, the second-oldest and the only girl. Sure, she's constantly ignored by her misogynistic, soccer-obsessed fallen star of a father (Dermot Mulroney), and it sucks. But so what? Gracie can always rely on her older brother and soccer star Johnny (Jesse Lee Soffer) to be there for her. So things could be worse, right?
You bet they can! At around the 15-minute mark of the movie, Johnny misses a penalty shot in the state championship, effectively losing the game for his team, then gets killed in a car accident. It all happens in the same night, and in about a six-minute movie-time span.
What's Gracie to do? How about putting on a tough face and hanging with the boys? Yeah!
Predictably, Gracie, who has spent her life messing around with Johnny and a soccer ball (the two apparently had a habit of running around town, yukking it up and passing a ball through light suburban traffic), decides she might be the missing ingredient in the high school boys' team's quest to winning state.
Of course, when no one agrees with her, Gracie enters a downward spiral of drinking, sneaking into nightclubs and getting herself into precarious situations. Only once her life has become an utter train wreck does her father agree to train her and help her try to make the soccer team.
Given that this is a movie clearly geared toward the tween-age girl set, you can imagine how it all works out. It's all quite obvious, thanks to the heavy-handed foreshadowing and, well, the bad acting.
Then again, that's all par for the course for Andrew Shue. (Remember him from Melrose Place? That show ended in 1998, and he hasn't done much of anything since.) He produced and wrote this story, alongside Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth). Apparently, it's all based on Andrew's sister Elisabeth (remember her from The Karate Kid, or her Oscar-nominated turn in Leaving Las Vegas?), who's also Guggenheim's wife and another of the film's producers. She too used to fight to play soccer with the boys when she was a girl growing up in New Jersey.
Cute, right? Eh.
Why any studio decided to green-light the Shue crew here is beyond me. Guggenheim's out of his element, especially in some of the film's more (supposedly) exciting on-field scenes; Elisabeth Shue is out of place and underused as Gracie's overworked mom; and bad-acting pretty boy Andrew Shue, who somehow finagles his way into what feels like 30-something minutes of face time (despite his only having maybe three lines), is somehow out-Andrew-Shue-d by bad-acting pretty boy Mulroney.
Maybe the studio owed Guggenheim and the Shues a favor? Who knows? Seriously, this film raises more questions than it answers.
The only answer it actually provides: Girls can play soccer.
Well, no shit! The Shues are at least a decade behind the times here. I already brought up Mia Hamm.
If you're really hankering for a soccer movie, stick with Bend It Like Beckham. Or maybe The Big Green. Or, hell, even Kicking and Screaming.
Gracie just completely misses the mark.
The striking colors and textures are reminiscent of Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Lovely work.