Pups United is a feel-good family film featuring soccer and dogs. I rate it a little higher than the 3 other dog-centric soccer movies I’ve seen. The soccer is pretty good, and the two bad guys (Andrew Tarr and Paul Lang) are very funny.
They are bumbling criminals trying to retrieve stolen software that they’ve hidden inside the trophy for the Kids International Cup tournament. Each tournament team has a dog mascot, and these dogs help thwart the criminals.
The dog action is not soccer-oriented
If you are a dog lover, you might not be happy with the dog coverage. Unlike all the other soccer dog movies, these dogs don’t play soccer with humans; instead they put on the half-time shows at the tournament.
But even though the film used the talents of Omar Von Muller, dog trainer to the stars, we only see one minute of soccer dog dribbling and heading tricks. Most of the dog action consists of sitting around in a circle talking, or lying still. If you want to see dog tricks, you’ll need to go to Omar’s website or that of his fellow trainer Sarah Clifford.
First feature for Director Guy Distad
This is the first feature film for Director Guy Distad, who has directed many episodes of the “Lab Rats” Disney series. Like that show, this film has a lot of side jokes making fun of itself for the adults who are watching. And also like that TV show, there are three parallel stories between the dogs, the boy and his team, and the bad guys, which get loosely tied together at the end. The movie is mostly about the bad guys, e.g., the idiot criminal (a fine performance by Tarr) discovers his savant talent for sports announcing.
Feel-good ending but feel-bad during
Overall, this is a cute movie with a feel-good ending. It feels good even though (SPOILER ALERT!) the mean player scores the winning goal. It’s cute enough that I can overlook the inaccuracies, such as the coach calling a timeout, and the idea that his son is sending in plays from the bench. Wrong sport.
But the hardest thing to swallow is Coach Dad’s behavior. He is unsupportive of his son, who is unjustly accused of cheating and stealing. And no Dad coach would cut his son from the team. Youth sports just doesn’t work that way. Ever. Could be tough for a kid to watch…
Great facilities at the Spire Institute outside Cleveland
One of the reasons the human soccer is so good is because those scenes were shot at the amazing facilities of the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio, which is 50 miles outside Cleveland. There was plenty of local talent at the Spire Academy, a prep boarding high school with Olympic training facilities. I was awestruck just reading about this place.
Fix the problems in the sequel
Maybe the director/producers can fix the problems in the next installment, when the Cup goes to England (wishful thinking?).
Rob Schneider is credited for the voice of Bennie the bulldog, but he only has a few lines. Mark Silverman, who does Rod Serling’s voice for the Disney rides, provides the voice of the main dog Rex and 2 others.
6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6