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Next Goal Wins

Taika Waititi, the director behind whimsical hits like “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Jojo Rabbit,” takes a heartwarming detour into the world of sports with “Next Goal Wins.” Based on the true story of the American Samoa national football team’s quest for redemption after a humiliating defeat, the film aims to score with an underdog tale filled with humor, drama, and cultural insights. Does it land the winning goal, or does it fumble in the final minutes?

From Ashes to (Almost) Glory

The film follows Tommy Rongen (Michael Fassbender), a washed-up Dutch coach brought in to salvage the American Samoa team after their record-breaking 31-0 loss. Faced with a ragtag group of players juggling day jobs and personal struggles, Rongen must overcome cultural clashes, his own inner demons, and the immense task of rebuilding the team’s confidence. As they train and prepare for the next qualifying tournament, the film explores themes of teamwork, self-discovery, and the unifying power of sport.

Humor and Heart Go Hand in Hand

Waititi’s signature humor is sprinkled throughout the film, providing lighthearted moments and easing the potential heaviness of the underdog narrative. He balances the comedic tone with genuine heart, portraying the struggles and triumphs of the players and coach with sensitivity and respect. Notably, the film includes the story of Jaiyah Saelua, a transgender player who bravely navigates both personal and societal challenges on her journey to represent her country.

Michael Fassbender and Kaimana in Next Goal Wins (2023)

Performances Take Center Field

Fassbender delivers a nuanced performance as the jaded coach who rediscovers his passion for the game. The supporting cast shines, with Ricky Smith and Kaimana bringing authenticity and humor to their roles as Samoan players. Despite some underdeveloped characters, the ensemble creates a believable and endearing team dynamic.

A Familiar Playbook with a Heartfelt Touch

The film’s formula follows a predictable underdog sports narrative, complete with training montages, inspiring speeches, and last-minute victories. While this familiarity might deter some viewers, it works thanks to the genuine chemistry between the characters and the heartwarming message at its core.

The Final Whistle: A Solid Win, But Not a Champion

“Next Goal Wins” isn’t groundbreaking cinema, but it delivers a satisfying and uplifting experience. The humor works, the characters are endearing, and the true story’s message resonates. While some might find the plot formulaic and certain characters underdeveloped, the film’s heart and humor offer a crowd-pleasing experience suitable for viewers of all ages.

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