Underdog achievement stories, from Breaking Away to Rudy and Kung Fu Panda, are practically defined by the multitude of voices telling the hero that he’s not good enough.
Such was the real-life case of Paul Potts, the Welsh opera singer with a blue-collar background who blew away the judges of Britain’s Got Talent in 2007. In David Frankel’s One Chance, Paul is played by James Corden, the comic charmer who portrayed Craig Owens in two funny Doctor Who episodes, now set to take over Craig Ferguson’s late-night spot on CBS.
The film shoehorns Potts’s life story into a familiar underdog template, populating the world with near-mythological threshold guardians who exist to assure the hero that he isn’t good enough, including his dad, his teachers, and the surprisingly brutal neighborhood bullies. Luciano Pavarotti (Stanley Townsend), who tells Paul after a disastrous tryout that he may never be an opera singer, isn’t the biggest and baddest; it’s Paul’s own crippling self-doubt.
Even his mean dad, a former rugby hero, assures Paul that he’s best suited to be a slag remover in his hometown’s blast furnace. Threshold guardians are fucking dicks. But everyone’s seen the real-life Britain’s Got Talent clip — it’s amazing! So it’s no spoiler to say that Paul kills it on TV. The moment loses none of the emotional impact in reenactment, cleverly incorporating the actual video footage of Simon Cowell and the voice of the real-life Potts.