Review of the film “Next Goal Wins”

Review of the film “Next Goal Wins”

Taika Waititi is one of the most unique contemporary directors. While most of his colleagues in the film industry try to appear bigger and better, Waititi seems to just do whatever brings him genuine joy. He portrays extravagant characters in his own films, travels, and participates in social initiatives. To put it simply, he’s not one to get bored easily. “Next Goal Wins” is Waititi’s latest film, and we’ll discuss how it turned out in our review.

“Next Goal Wins” Genre: Sports Comedy Director: Taika Waititi Starring: Michael Fassbender, Oscar Kaitly, Rachel House, Beulah Koale, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Moss Theatrical Release: TBA Year: 2023 IMDb: [IMDb link]

Football coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) is deeply passionate about his work and the chosen sport. However, his love faces a severe test when he becomes the coach of the American Samoa football team, considered the weakest in the world with local players who lack almost any skill. Rongen is on the brink of despair but is still willing to put in all efforts to achieve his goal.

It’s ingrained in human nature that we love stories about underdogs and failures who, through hard work, achieve at least internal realization if not well-deserved success. This narrative is quite cliché but still works, akin to feelings of nostalgia and other eternal emotions. Therefore, it’s likely to be actively used in films continuously.

“Next Goal Wins” doesn’t deviate from this rule, not bringing anything new to the classic storyline. However, its situation is somewhat more interesting than just a tale of triumph. The film is based on a documentary of the same name, portraying the story of a very poor football team that once lost with a score of 31-0, a real-life event that adds a unique touch to the narrative.

Next Goal Wins
Next Goal Wins

On one hand, the film gains more value by being sincere and honest with the audience, even with all the quirks and winks that Waititi loves. The local absurdity, abundant in cinema, becomes part of objective reality, adding its own magic to the story.

On the other hand, stories of failures are often depicted in artistic works precisely because they don’t quite align with real life. They are too romanticized and naive to fully materialize in reality. That’s why we enjoy the fiction to be inspired and try to become better on our own.

Waititi attempts to blend the real story of striving for improvement with his directorial style but fails miserably. Instead of synergy, there is conflict at the intersection.

Bad jokes and even worse attempts at humor hinder getting immersed in the stories of people trying to improve after their failures. This approach shifts the focus from the film’s main ideas, morals, and motivations to kitschy scenes, causing the film to lose its core.

At times, it feels like you’re watching a compilation of separate scenes loosely connected to the main plot and football in general. It could make sense if these scenes were worthy of detachment from the film’s foundation. Unfortunately, many of them induce an uncomfortable smile and a desire to sink deeper into the chair while watching. Remember Waititi’s “Thor: Love and Thunder”? Embarrassingly, some scenes here are even worse than in one of Marvel’s worst films.

The absurdity of the film significantly hampers the proper development of the cast. It gives the impression that Fassbender’s on-screen suffering embodies not only his character but also his impression of the filming itself. He constantly finds himself surrounded by pseudo/clownish characters, including, of course, Waititi’s own character. The feelings are very mixed.

Even the film’s direction evokes unpleasant sensations. Waititi’s theatrical elements have always been noticeable, but here they appear so cheap and caricatured that justifying them artistically is almost impossible. Some independent films have a much more polished look than this one with a budget of 14 million dollars. Admittedly, it’s not a vast budget, but it could have been utilized much more effectively.

In conclusion, the film takes the right and interesting ideas but seems to deliberately make it difficult for you to connect with them. It’s only reassuring that the strength of “underdog stories” is strong enough to break through Waititi’s directorial eccentricities. Yet, the question remains: why endure all this – a question without an answer.


“Next Goal Wins” is better enjoyed as a documentary from 2014. It’s more honest, serious, and surprisingly better shot. This speaks volumes about Waititi’s new dubious work.

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