Cinema Review: Next Goal Wins

Posted 7 months ago in Cinema Reviews


A cursory glance at the online subculture formally known as “Film Twitter” in recent months will show that ‘Taika fatigue’ is in full swing. Adoration for Taika Watiti, the New Zealand-born filmmaker known for his quirky comic dramas accented with a homegrown flavour, reached its zenith when he directed Thor: Ragnarok. Even with an Oscar win for Jojo Rabbit, cinephiles are starting to tire of his zany self-awareness and impish, improvisational dialogue.

True-to-life sports dramedy Next Goal Wins is Waititi’s first real response to those who have boarded the backlash bandwagon and he’s not swaying the unconverted any time soon. Michael Fassbender is slightly miscast as Dutch-American Thomas Rongen, the washed-up football coach assigned with ending American Samoa’s losing streak which included an historic 31-0 loss to Australia. To put the film’s shortcomings on the Irish actor’s shoulders, however, is to give him too much credit. Many of the jokes feel half-baked and at odds with the characters reciting them. Would these people really be making The Matrix and Taken references, for instance?

Relationships between Rongen and the islanders are mildly more engaging than the humor. The native characters, save one or two, don’t get enough room to make a lasting impression. An arc involving a trans athlete is the most moving subplot here, but even that’s bungled by its emotional climax. As a man of a certain age in 2011, Rongen not having the deftly-expressed sensitivity or vocabulary for such a person is understandable, but framing his late response of “get back out on that pitch” to her misgivings about her gender identity as empathetic is misguided.

Next Goal Wins is not a disaster and the supporting cast are talented but considering it’s based on a superior documentary it’s hard to see this as anything more than pointless.

Words: Mark Conroy

Next Goal Wins 

Director: Taika Waititi

Talent: Michael Fassbender

Release Date: December 26


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