The Highlight Reel

“The Big Green” and the beauty of mediocrity

Nick Porisch

More stories from Nick Porisch

The Highlight Reel
May 10, 2023

Photo by Marisa Valdez

Image copyright Walt Disney Pictures

I’m going to be totally honest, I did not pay super close attention to the first half hour of this one.

That’s because I recently dedicated myself to spending at least half an hour per day drawing — a skill I’ve always wanted but never put the time in to master or even be decent at.

So, while I should’ve been absorbing the origins of “The Big Green,” the titular soccer team at the film’s focus, I was drawing awful sketches of my roommates, and also a ram, for some reason.

At the end of my drawing time for the day, I had two mediocre sketches that were a hair better than Napoleon’s drawing of Tisha from “Napoleon Dynamite,” and, again, a ram, reasons still unknown.

I set my cheap pencil and lined notebook paper aside and centered my attention back to the true matter at hand, Disney’s 1995 soccer odyssey, “The Big Green.”

I could spend a lot of time summarizing the beat-by-beat plot of “The Big Green,” but I think it’s easier to just say that it was one of the most stereotypical kids’ sports movies I’ve ever seen.

A team of scrappy middle-schoolers from a small town are convinced to form a competitive soccer team, get trounced in their first outing, discover the new kid is really talented, begin to love the game and go on to eventually beat the rich, city team in the championship.

There’s a few twists to this premise. In a lot of movies like this, their head coach is the new teacher at school, but in this case the new teacher is a British transplant who chose to live in rural texas because of her fanaticism for America.

“In America, you can be anything you want to be,” she explains to her skeptical students.

“That was before Reaganomics, ma’am,” a student replies, landing the best line in the movie.

The team’s goalie also hallucinates the opposing players as various monsters when they charge the goal, including ninjas, pirates and iron-clad knights, as a panic-fueled anxiety response.

This leads to the movie’s second-best line, when the goalie explains this phenomenon to his teammate, who replies “You’re a complicated guy, Larry.” 

Hey, it was 1995, and mental health awareness wasn’t exactly where it is today yet.

This movie has its joys, with plenty of fun 90s outfits, wacky sound effects and a diverse cast that fills in the ranks of the titular co-ed team. It doesn’t particularly fall flat anywhere, and avoids most problematic traps of the era.

The movie’s biggest fault, though, is its stunning mediocrity. It’s not bad, but it is incredibly generic, often a little boring and largely forgettable.

As I thought about this, though, I looked at my extremely average drawings of my roommates and a ram.

In 1995, there were probably soccer-loving kids all over the country, living in small towns like the one in the movie, who were blown away by “The Big Green.” The scenes of pirates marching down the field probably lived rent-free in their imagination.

In 2023, those same grown-ups probably look back on “The Big Green” with fondness and nostalgia. It most likely reminds them of their childhood, and maybe they show it to their kids, a moment of connection between generations.

Maybe mediocrity isn’t so bad.

Porisch can be reached at [email protected].