Director: Taiki Waititi actually made this heartfelt, if misguided sports film when his body satirical JoJo Rabbit was released. Regarding the hapless American Samoa football (read: soccer) squad who infamously was trounced by Australia (31-0) in 2001’s FIFA World Cup.
Next Goal Wins was hampered by the Fox/Disney merger and the pandemic leading to reshot. It didn’t alter the inconsistent raw product in the end despite the idiosyncratic wit and timing still intact.
The focus of crestfallen temperamental Dutch coach Thomas Rongen on the motivational doesn’t end up being a good fit for the able Michael Fassbender (X Men). Notably in the emotional load he has to bear in being in being relegated to taking over the American Samoa players to try and get just one goal in the 2014 qualifying match.
Bubbly sober federation manager for Samoa (a likeable Oscar Knightley needs this type of individual to turn things around (there was a 2014 documentary of the same name). So, the narrative provides many gags concerning culture clash and the team’s woeful reputation. Of course the hirsute Rongen will grow less sour to competitors who aren’t given much shading or emphasis until the late going.
You could see potential from the underdog formula with the filmmaker’s signature tweaking that has proved entertaining in the past in mining comedy in many genres. In this case an indolence prevails leading to the kind of returns that cinematically doesn’t wind up between the posts. Especially on the gratuitous side when it comes to a fa’afaine, non-binary transgender character Jaiyah who is confrontational and oddly reconciliatory with the coach of the late Bobby Knight ink. Elisabeth Moss and Will Arnett co-str as those in Rongen’s orbit to little effect.
With its hormones and gender dynamics a bit out of whack this Next Goal may be sincere but hardy qualifies as a win.