Reel Reviews | Next Goal Wins

By Charles Kirkland Jr.

Director Taika Waititi brings to life the story of the most infamously known football teams in FIFA
history, the 2001 team from American Samoa, in Next Goal Wins.

In 2001, the American Samoan soccer team suffered the worst loss in the history of all soccer. In the
years that followed, the team continued to languish in irrelevancy in the sport. With the 2014 World
Cup approaching, failing soccer coach Thomas Rongen is brought over from the mainland to get the
team to score “just one goal.” Can Rongen bury his demons, adapt to the Samoan lifestyle, and get the
rag-tag team of misfits to play like a team much less score “just one goal?”

Written by Taika Waititi with Iain Morris, Next Goal Wins stars Michael Fassbender, Kaimana, Oscar
Kightley, David Fane, Rachel House, Will Arnett, Elisabeth Moss and Taika Waititi. The film is also
directed by Waititi.

Next Goal Wins is the first non-Marvel movie that Taika Waititi has made since the fabulous Jojo Rabbit,
a film that is completely out-of-the-box in its style. Waititi has been a consistent source of inventive and
creative comedy even when he was producing content for the Marvel Universe. In Next Goal Wins,
Waititi seems to be less quirky and inventive yet his timing remains excellent. Bringing the story of a
soccer team that has lost 31-0 in its history has enough hilarity on its own so Taika does not have a lot of
heavy lifting to do in this story.

But the film is incredibly funny but in a conventional way. The fact that this movie is based upon a true
story may be a hindrance to the delivery of a typical Waititi story. The jokes in the film are extremely
simplistic and delivered in a straightforward manner. Every actor seems to be a part of the joke.
Everyone that is except for Fassbender, of course, who spends most of the movie as the brooding and
angrily sulking straight man. Sure, Fassbender is supposed to be the typical white savior who finds
himself being saved. It’s all pretty standard, Disney-style storytelling.

The one thing that is exceptional about the film is the casting. As the credits roll, the audience is treated
to a number of photos and films of the actual people upon whom the film is based. When seeing the
pictures of the original people and comparing them to the actors in the film, it is clear that casting
director Katie Doyle and company did an outstanding job of finding doubles to be in the film.

Rated PG-13 for some strong language and crude material, Next Goal Wins is a funny, heart-warming,
charming but only slightly clever tale of triumph over tragedy. It’s a pretty good film but it is nowhere
near the standard that Taika Waititi has set for himself in the past. Maybe he has spent too much time
with Disney.

In theaters on November 17.

Grade – B