‘Baggio: The Divine Ponytail’ Review: Dribbling Through a Career

This biopic of the Italian soccer player Roberto Baggio is a botched effort.

By Ben Kenigsberg

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“Baggio: The Divine Ponytail,” a Netflix biopic billed as “freely inspired” by the life of the Italian soccer player Roberto Baggio, concludes with a group of the athlete’s fans greeting and applauding him. In real-life clips during the credits, an announcer calls him “probably the most beloved player in Italian football.” It’s a measure of how muddled the movie is that it never conveys how or why he became beloved.

Even the soccer is perfunctory. Instead of lingering on the pitch, the director, Letizia Lamartire, cuts to Baggio’s friends and family watching on TV. Chronologically malapportioned, the film races through key developments, such as Baggio’s recovery from an injury or commitment to Buddhist meditation, and more than once abruptly flashes forward several years.

Clichés become a kind of shorthand. At dinner in 1985, Baggio (Andrea Arcangeli) informs his parents and siblings that he’s signed a valuable contract. “Well, you can pay me back for the windows you broke,” scoffs his father (Andrea Pennacchi), who later adds, “Even if you earn more, you’re no better than your brother, who’s busting his ass at the factory.”

By half an hour in, when the film reaches the 1994 World Cup, where Baggio plans to fulfill an apparent childhood promise to his dad, the coach likens him to the celebrated player Diego Maradona. Nothing the film has shown from the sulky Baggio, whose hair gives him his nickname, has primed viewers for the comparison.

It’s possible that “Baggio: The Divine Ponytail” will resonate with soccer fans. But the protagonist’s reputed greatness has not made it to the screen.

Baggio: The Divine Ponytail
Not rated. In Italian, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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