And this mostly works. Mileage may vary in your favorite, but for me, Rue and his family are absolutely where the heart of the film lies. Sullivan gives her dad a fake interview, that is too cute to describe. Of course, Heslinga and his co-writer Mike Wagstaffe, give equal time to each player, and everyone is compelling to one degree or another.
The various tactics used to train, from filming yourself playing to pouring powder onto the table to study the movements of the ball, are quite interesting as well. In terms of directing style, Heslinga films Foosballers like a Western. From music cues to certain shot compositions (this is a documentary so there’s only so much one can do there), down to the font designs, the whole film is aiming to be a showdown.
“… various tactics used to train, from filming yourself playing to pouring powder onto the table to study the movements of the ball…”
That showdown, aka the tournament itself, comprises the final 30-minutes of the documentary. And this is where problems arise. Presuming you aren’t a foosball fanatic, this section is dull. Despite Heslinga’s best attempts with epic crane moves and fantastic music, the action during any given foosball game is too quick to follow properly. Also, for all the talk of each player’s style, it never pays off. Again, some matches seem to end in a matter of seconds.
This makes things really boring during the tournament. Foosballers is only 90-minutes, and the first hour moves at a decent clip. But the last third feels like it takes forever to get anywhere. Taking the wind out of the sails, so to speak, in such a drastic way undercuts the emotions of who wins and who doesn’t as well. While focusing on any given matchup, the viewer’s mind is racing to how the other main players are currently faring during the tournament, as well. Maybe employing a split-screen to get multiple games out at once would remedy this, though I am not sure.
Foosballers aims to give a history of the sport while ensuring that you understand it is a legitimate sport. Heslinga directs with heart and style, so the film’s love of foosball is never questioned. The various players being followed are all interesting in their own way, and their families/ friends give the movie an adorable heart right at its center. But the final 30-minutes drag and things get boring. While the film is almost great, it’ll have to settle for very good.
"…You know, that game you’d play at the bar when the pool tables were all taken up. A whole culture and sporting division surrounds that past time."