Taika Waititi’s Next Goal Wins is a fictional retelling of the American Samoa football team’s quest to score at least one goal in the World Cup qualifiers. Years after a humiliating defeat to Australia 31 – 0, Tavita (Oscar Knight), the President of the Football Federation of American Samoa, posts an ad for the head coaching job. Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) is voluntold to take the job after being fired as the Team USA coach. Rongen, an alcoholic with some dark secret in his past, arrives in American Samoa and sees the squad of misfits, leading him to one of his many fake quits throughout his short tenure. Tavita manages to convince Rongen to stay multiple times, telling him all American Samoa wants is one goal in an international game. After many pseudo-inspirational training scenes, the team finally gets to the international game and fights for their first goal.
I was excited about this film because I’m a Michael Fassbender fan, like Taika Waititi films, and love soccer/football. But I still tried to temper my expectations, which was the right move. The word I would use to describe this film is, meh.
Everything was surface-level; I didn’t necessarily care for the characters in general. Some of the humour was ill-timed as well; as soon as something deep started, it was interrupted almost immediately. This film was mainly marketed as a comedy, but it wasn’t all that funny. I did “laugh,” but it was the sort of laugh where you exhale a little harder out of your nose. Usually, I love Waititi’s comedies, but I thought the film was weak.
My feelings about the cast and characters were mixed. I enjoyed Fassbender’s performance, and Knight was thoroughly entertaining. But every other person was neither here nor there. The film’s main focus was Jaiyah (Kaimana), the first transgender player in World Cup qualifiers. Jaiyah, by far, was the most developed character throughout the movie, which says something because most of the characters were forgettable.
The pacing was off, making it feel much longer than the actual run time. It was slow to get going, meandering through the setup, and then when the actual match happened, there was a rush to the end. Instead of showing the events, we get a narration; then, it’s all over with. A funny narration can add to a story, but after watching the long setup, there was no payoff, excitement, nothing.
Overall, the film was okay. It was mildly amusing and had some heart but was ultimately forgettable. It reminded me of Cool Runnings and was the same story. If you like Cool Runnings and Waititi’s films, you’ll probably enjoy the film as you watch and quickly forget it until you see it pop up on Disney+ in a few months.
Next Goal Wins will be released in the UK on December 26th 2023
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I’m a Data Analyst, from the land of Matthew McConaughey. I’m an avid movie-goer and love seeing films in theaters. My most recent favorite films are Good Time, Only Lovers Left Alive, TENET, and England is Mine. When I’m not at the movies, I’m either reading or watching obscene amount of true crime and historical documentaries.