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Next Goal Wins


Stars: Michael Fassbender, Oscar Kightley, Kaimana, Baulah Koale, Elisabeth Moss, Will Arnett, David Fane, Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, Luke Hemsworth, Kaitlin Dever

Director: Taika Waititi

You may have seen the engrossing and endearing 2014 documentary (of the same title), about the football team from American Samoa, ranked the worst in the world, having never scored a goal and latterly defeated 31-0 by Australia.

This is an expansion of that story, with the accent on comedy and centring on the multi-loser American coach, Thomas Rongen (blandly played by Fassbender), who was 'offered' the job of coaching the team as the only option left open to him after his latest sacking.

He finds the goalkeeper weighs 20 stone, the star striker a transgender player who arrives dressed as a woman, and the rest wearily resigned to one heavy defeat after another.

Rounding up the few half-decent players who have previously spurned the side, he drives the squad towards fitness, but only connects with them mentally when he comes clean about his own past.

Even then, Rongen's choices often seem illogical, not to mention his strange and violent reaction when the team go (only) 1-0 down to Tonga in a World Cup qualifier (the star's disinterested performance hardly helps).

Even so, this classic story of the underdog will still get through to you by the end, with Kaimana winning our sympathy as the transgender Jaiyah, who could have profitably been moved more to the centre of things. Could have been a classic Rocky-style feelgood yarn, though, so this stop-stsrt version must count as a missed opportunity.

David Quinlan

USA/UK 2022. UK Distributor: Disney (Searchlight). Colour by FotoKem.
104 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 17 Dec 2023