The American Samoa soccer team is famous but for all the wrong reasons. They are known for their tragic losses, including the embarrassing defeat by Australia in which American Samoa lost 31-0. Conversely, Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) has been sacked from coaching due to his consistent foul temper and disagreements with the board. However, Thomas is soon given another opportunity. As it is the only option available to him, Thomas accepts the role of coach for the American Samoa soccer team.
When he arrives at his destination and meets the team, it’s evident that Thomas is not pleased with his new assignment. As he gets to know the team, he is shocked and baffled by their skills and lack of teamwork. Based on what Thomas sees, he would much rather spend his time drinking heavily. Luckily, the people in the community aren’t necessarily looking for Thomas to lead the team to victory, but they would love to see the team at least score a single goal.
Next Goal Wins is best described as a comedy and drama and has been directed by Taika Waititi, who also serves as one of the writers. Taika Waititi’s fingerprints are all over this movie from the beginning, particularly in the comedy and the many random one-liners spoken by all the side characters.
Naturally, Next Goal Wins is an uplifting story based on actual events, but sadly, as a film, it’s nothing overly groundbreaking for film buffs; we’ve seen it all before. If you’ve seen a film from Taika Waititi before, you’re in familiar territory, including Taika narrating the film and playing a priest. The comedy is enjoyable, and some gags are random and earn a laugh. Thomas is a more dramatic character than the side characters, and he carries a heavy heart and a mind full of frustration and anger. However, his reasons for feeling this way aren’t clear. Excitingly enough, the film introduces a touching drama aspect, particularly in the third act, where we gain more information about Thomas and his tragic past. However, this is skimmed over quickly and is almost forgettable as the credits appear, and certain subplots surrounding Thomas’ world are left unresolved.
Overall, if you’re seeking a feel-good comedy with the fingerprints of Director Taika Waititi all over it, Next Goal Wins is here for your pleasure. While the story is based on actual events and is encouraging, it’s fun but nothing groundbreaking. The comedy does earn a few laughs through its random playfulness, but Taika uses similar beats, and the film feels less impacting than it should be. The drama aspect is a solid touch, but sadly, it feels watered down and rushed as the film tries to focus more on the gags instead of the impact. Michael Fassbender delivers an acceptable performance and handles comedic side characters well, but I still couldn’t help but question afterwards if he were perhaps miscast. Ultimately, Next Goal Wins is a fine film with a few enjoyable moments despite lacking anything significant in the new and fresh department.