Genre: Sports/Comedy
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Elisabeth Moss, Will Arnett, Oscar Kightley, David Fane, Beulah Koale
Runtime: 1 hr 44 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Mature Content)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Official Website:

Opening Day: 7 December 2023

Synopsis: NEXT GOAL WINS follows the American Samoa soccer team, infamous for their brutal 31-0 FIFA loss in 2001. With the World Cup Qualifiers approaching, the team hires down-on-his-luck, maverick coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) hoping he will turn the world's worst soccer team around in this heartfelt underdog comedy.

Movie Review:

New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi returns to his filmmaking roots of doing a smaller intimate movie after the dismal response of Thor: Love and Thunder. Co-writing and directing this sports movie, Waititi employs his trademark approach at balancing both comedy and emotional weight in translating a real story to the screen. Yet it glaringly fails to materialize in this underdog sports movie.

Disgraced football coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) is given the impossible task of coaching the America Samoa football team, the worst team in history having lost to Australia 31 – 0 in 2001. Rongen’s task is to get them in shape for the 2011 World Cup qualifying match. But the lackluster performance and attitude of the players prove that it’s more than an uphill task for Rongen and his already low morale.

The writing is on the wall when the movie opens with a priest (played by Waititi himself) rambling. Not exactly funny or meaningful for a prologue to be honest. The entire narrative that follows plays like a casual drama without any surprise nor comedy beat. There’s no traces of Waititi’s offbeat humour that is really memorable here. You keep waiting for something laughable but honestly there’s nothing here that leaves one in stitches. Basically the writing feels like a first draft that is never vetted by the studio.

Strangely enough, none of the characters established in the story are that interesting either. We know nothing more about Thomas Rongen except his ex-wife Gail (a wasted Elizabeth Moss) and her now boyfriend, Alex (Will Arnett) are members of the FIFA board. What exactly happened to Thomas and his fiery temper? Don’t know. Then there is team head, Tavita (Oscar Knightley) who juggles a few jobs on the small island and a transgender player, Jaiyah (Kaimana) who supposedly provides a good opportunity to showcase some effective emotional themes. Sadly, none of it panned out in the end if you are curious.

Perhaps the biggest mistake is casting Fassbender. Not known for his comedic skills, the usually reliable Fassbender puts in a weak, unbelievable performance as the coach with rage and alcoholic issues. We can’t pinpoint the reasons behind this failure although we are going to point out the subpar writing again. Same goes to the motivational talks in the locker room which come across as weak and legitimate inconsequential. The football matches in the third act are also poorly handled. It’s choreographed so badly and shoddily shot that it defeats the purpose of doing a sports theme movie.

By now, this might seem to be a rather harsh review of Next Goal Wins. We are not going to mince any words because IT IS a piece of shoddy work coming from a filmmaker especially liked Taika Waititi. Jokes are straight out flat. Characters are not engaging. The American Samoa culture is handled haphazardly. When audiences don’t feel the urge to root for the misfits, you know your movie is in deep trouble. In fact, just watch the fictional Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story anytime at least this one deliver lots of laugh and heart. 

Movie Rating:




(Misses the goalpost by at least a yard, in other words, an absolute borefest coming from Taika Waititi)

Review by Linus Tee


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