Winning is not the Only Thing, but it is Fun.
Kristoffer Polaha is one of my favorite Hallmark leading men, so I had high hopes for this one. It turned out to be so boring and by the book, that there is not a whole lot to talk about. Other than Kristopher Poloha’s presumably creative choice of a new hairstyle, that is. For this movie, his usual combed, parted, and reliably swept back locks are hanging floppily and product-free over his forehead. It took some getting used to.
Emily is a star professional soccer player who has an anger management problem on the pitch. She is finally suspended from the team for yelling at a ref one time too many and goes home to spend her downtime with her widowed brother and her niece. She is very competitive and when she hobbles her niece’s laid-back soccer coach (Polaha) in a pick-up game, she is wrangled into coaching the team until he can get his ankle set. Naturally, after making a few adjustments over the protestations of the coach, they actually start to win games. This is a welcome change of fortune for the girls and their parents and Coach Ian, seeing their newfound joy in the game, is pretty much on board although they still clash over his play for the fun of it mentality and her play to win over everything approach. The story follows its preordained path with the opposites attract pair falling in like then love with trivia contests, two-legged races, and rope course adventures sprinkled in. Meanwhile, the soccer team’s winning ways continue and they are headed for the Championships.
There is a bit of a subplot with Emily’s niece trying out for a part in a school play in addition to her love of playing soccer. Emily supports this as she is realizing, thanks to Coach’s more balanced approach to team play and also spending time with her family and other soccer-free activities, that there is more to life than winning at sport.
Predictably, since her professional team can’t win without her she is unsuspended and summoned back to her team just in time for her to be torn between her new team’s championship final game or her professional career. Of course. All continues to go by the Hallmark playbook to the end, as it has throughout the movie.
Nadia Hatta as Emily Chen does a credible job of portraying the combative soccer star. You can feel her anger and hostility radiating out of her when her no-nonsense coach suspends her. That is softened a little too quickly once she is in the fold of her family. I would have liked to see a more gradual learning curve there. Once she is away from her professional team, she is quite nice despite her competitiveness. And more cute than scary in her tangles with coach Ian, her inevitable love interest. Polaha is as good as ever, and by the end, I must concede that his more sporty and casual hairstyle choice was probably for the best.