It’s hard to imagine one movie could be so hackneyed, but this one is something else. It hits every biopic cliché so squarely it almost feels cruel to call them out, but to dumb down the story of such a singularly exceptional athlete is a disservice, even if Pelé scores the occasional feel-good vibe. Cliché: Extreme poverty is merely a nuisance, and at times downright cute. Cliché: Rich soccer-playing kids taunt poor soccer-playing kids because the poors don’t have shoes. When the poors finally get shoes, they play like bums until they ditch said shoes, and then they win. Cliché: An old dude tells teenaged Pelé about ginga, an ancient martial art brought to Brazil by African slaves, which will aid him in his play. Cliché: Ginga is frowned upon by Pelé’s coaches—until it isn’t. The only thing that saves Pelé from being an unqualified failure is its beautiful cinematography—but that’s nearly undone by sledgehammer editing, ham-fisted music cues and god-awful performances. The child actors are wooden, but if you ever wondered whether Vincent D'Onofrio could give a bad performance, you have an answer (it’s yes).
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