Taika Waititi’s Next Goal Wins review roundup

What critics are saying about Waititi's latest film, Next Goal Wins, which centres around the American Samoan soccer team.

Next Goal Wins, the new film from Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit; Thor: Ragnarok), follows the American Samoa soccer team, who became infamous for their brutal 31-0 FIFA loss in 2001.

With the World Cup Qualifiers approaching, the team hires down-on-his-luck, maverick coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) hoping he will turn the world’s worst soccer team around in what has been described as a ‘heartfelt underdog comedy’.

The critical responses to the film are mixed, however, with many reviewers giving it only 2 stars after it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this weekend.

Read: Taika Waititi – all the best bits

The Guardian – 2 stars

‘…while Sunday’s premiere saw roars of laughter and cheers of approval from an easily manipulated audience, it’s doubtful that his latest will be able to emulate even a fraction of that success. The film is a shoddily made and strikingly unfunny attempt to tell an interesting story in an uninteresting way.’

Discussing Film – 2 stars

‘Boasting Michael Fassbender, known for his dramatic performances, in a comedic turn, Next Goal Wins is presented with the opportunity to show off some of the dead-serious actor’s untapped potential. It’s unfortunate then that Fassbender’s gritted and stiff performance as our down-on-his-luck soccer coach is downright confusing.’

BBC – 4 stars

‘Waititi’s winning, winsome film is his most accessible and mainstream movie to date, Marvel aside, one that successfully mixes in funny jokes with zeitgeisty social commentary.’

The Hollywood Reporter – N/A

‘The film works best when Waititi gets out of his own way and lets the characters speak for themselves instead of self-consciously extinguishing any warmth with jokes.’

Collider – B

It’s not bad, but considering how Waititi has shaken up genres before […] it’s kind of a shame that Waititi isn’t able to do this as well with Next Goal Wins.

IndieWire – C

‘It’s a tale that has all the makings of a classically inspirational sports movie, but Waititi, who co-wrote the screenplay along with Iain Morris, focuses on the goofy comedy elements of the story, almost to a detriment. It’s the rare opportunity where engaging in a few more tropes of the genre might have been necessary as a grounding force. ‘

ScreenRant – 2.5 stars

‘My issue with Next Goal Wins comes during the middle portion of the film, which suffers severely from Waititi’s humor. It’s incredibly forced and comes off as a mockery of the team and culture. And instead of using the time and space to bring the audience into the Samoan way of life, there’s always a joke that cuts off any insight to their beautiful, culturally rich world.’

Next Goal Wins will hit Australian cinemas on 1 January 2024.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports