Next Goal Wins Review: A Disappointing Real-Life Story Of Losers

Next Goal Wins Review: A Disappointing Real-Life Story Of Losers

Designed as a goofy comedy film, this far-from-inspirational sports drama showcases the real-life story of losers.

Troy RibeiroUpdated: Friday, February 02, 2024, 11:11 AM IST
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A disappointing real-life story of losers |

Title: Next Goal Wins

Director: Taika Waititi

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Oscar Kightley, Kaimana Jaiyah, David Fane, Rachel House, Beulah Koale, Will Arnett, Elisabeth, Semu Filipo, Uli Latukefu, Chris Alosio

Where: In theatres

Rating: **

Designed as a goofy comedy film, this far-from-inspirational sports drama showcases the real-life story of losers.

In the 2001 Soccer World Cup Qualifiers, Australia beat the American Samoa team by 31-0 goals, dubbing them the worst losers in the history of International Soccer. American Samoa is the unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean.

Ten years down the line and four weeks before the Pacific Games Tournament, with no visible improvement to their ranking, Tavita (Oscar Kightley), the Chief of FFAS, the governing body for competitive football in American Samoa, is forced to hire a non-islander to coach the team. He hires the reluctant, hot-headed coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) with an unofficial brief to salvage the teams’ honour with a single goal. 

The demeanour of the Islanders is what prevents them from being competitive. The players are not serious about the game or the sport. How Rongen adjusts to living on the Island and revives the spirit of the world’s weakest team forms the crux of the narrative. 

On the performance front, Fassbender is convincing as the cranky Rongen, dealing with alcoholism and other personal demons. He is aptly supported by - Elisabeth Moss as his ex-wife, Will Arnett as her new boyfriend and President of the American Soccer Federation, David Fane as Ace, the useless coach, Kaimana who essays the trans player Jaiyah, and Beulah Koale as Tavita’s Son, among others. Despite having distinct personalities, the actors are short-changed by the script.

In fact, the Jaiyah character, as the first trans woman to play in a World Cup qualifier, was enough to give the film a different perspective. She gets ample screen time but no meat in the storyline. Similar is the case of Uli Latukefu’s goalie Nicky Salapu and Semu Filipo’s power forward Rambo.

Also, Director Taiki Waititi’s cameo as the American-Samoan priest is unwarranted. 

From the very onset, despite its charming underdog story, the tone and style of this heartwarming film seem light-hearted and frivolous.  The laid-back culture and religious disposition of the islanders are showcased brilliantly in a heartwarming manner. The characters are charming, and the team members with their emotional baggage show promise, but the unravelling of their backstories, happens in fits and spurts. Thus, the narrative simply appears disjointed.

Moreover, the plot trudges perfunctorily without any major upheavals. It unravels in a flat and predictable manner.

Overall, coming from the Academy Award Winning Director Taika Waititi, this film is a big letdown.

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