[Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures]

Movie Review: Next Goal Wins

07:00 November 20, 2023
By: Fritz Esker

Next Goal Wins

I very much enjoyed writer/director Taika Waititi's vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows. His Thor: Ragnarok is one of the most fun Marvel movies to date and his 2019 film Jojo Rabbit had some flaws but was still a daring, worthwhile film. I'm also a lifelong soccer fan, so I really wanted to like Waititi's new comedy Next Goal Wins, which is about the American Samoa soccer team's efforts to recover after the worst loss in international soccer history (31-0). Alas, it suffers from a weak script and some stale jokes.

Michael Fassbender plays Thomas Rongen, a coach who's been fired from enough jobs he has no choice left but to take over the hapless American Samoa squad. Upon arriving on the tiny island, he is put off by the players' lack of skill and carefree attitude towards life and the game.

The arc, of course, is predictable: Fassbender learns to loosen up a little and the team eventually restores its dignity. But sports movies are generally predictable and this one still could have worked with the right execution.

However, a lot of the film's humor is derived from movie references. Too many jokes fall flat. A sort-of-romantic-triangle between Rongen and his separated wife (Elizabeth Moss) and his boss (Will Arnott) eats up screen time while going nowhere. A framing device involving Waititi playing a priest is unnecessary and unfunny.

There aren't a lot of good soccer movies in cinema history, but if you're looking for some, try Bend It Like Beckham, Victory, The Damned United, or the Colin Firth version of Fever Pitch.

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