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.
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.