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The English-language drama "Pelé: Birth of a Legend" so earnestly plays through the clichés of the inspirational sports biography that even soccer fans may find it boring.
Writing-directing brothers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist leave the documentary world for this gauzy depiction of the early life of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, first as a 9-year-old (played by Leonardo Lima Carvalho) showing his stunning football skills in his impoverished Brazilian town and later as a teen (played by Kevin de Paula) signing on with his pro club, Santos, and playing for his country in the 1958 World Cup.
The Zimbalists stress how Pelé, nicknamed "Dico" by his family, learned from his father (played by the singer Seu Jorge) the native Brazilian style called "ginga" but battled at the club and national level against coaches who would tamp down his energetic playing in favor of the more robotic European style.
Alas, the script plods along from event to event, and the young actors portraying Pelé are bland and uninvolving. The movie's saving grace is the cinematography by Matthew Libatique ("Black Swan," "Money Monster"), which captures the energy and grace of Pelé's game beautifully.
'Pelé: Birth of a Legend'
Opening Friday, May 20, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG for thematic elements, some smoking and language; 107 minutes.