‘Next Goal Wins’ Movie Review: A Loveable, Yet Flawed Sports Comedy-Drama

Next Goal Wins Movie Review

It’s no secret that I love Taika Waititi. I love him as an actor, I love him as a director, and I love him as a writer. So my anticipation for his latest movie, Next Goal Wins, has been undeniably high since I first saw the trailer below, which seemed to perfectly blend Waititi’s signature humor with a heartwarming narrative. So, what were the end results? It’s entertaining, but it’s not without issues.

Next Goal Wins is a sports comedy-drama that beautifully encapsulates the spirit of underdogs rising against all odds, an age-old premise that sets the film that’s actually based on a true story. The movie tells the story of the American Samoa soccer team, infamous for their brutal 31-0 FIFA loss in 2001. With the World Cup Qualifiers coming up, the team brings in a new coach, Thomas Rongen (played by Michael Fassbender). Thomas isn’t exactly the coach the team envisioned, and he’s not in a great place in life when he arrives on the island. However, he ends up being exactly the coach the team needs.

Next Goal Wins Movie Trailer

Next Goal Wins Movie Review: What I Did and Didn’t Like

With it being award season, most films premiering now through the end of the year are expected to be ones making a play for a nomination. Either that, or they’re just holiday films making a play for the box office.

In that sense, Next Goal Wins is a bit perplexing. It’s definitely not an award contender. And it’s also not one that’s likely going to do well at the box office. But that doesn’t mean this one isn’t worth your time.

The Story

Waititi’s knack for finding humor in the most unlikely places shines through yet again in this film. He masterfully weaves comedy into the narrative without undermining the gravity of the team’s struggles. And the actors all do a fantastic job of bringing that story to life.

The movie’s pacing feels consistent, building tension and excitement without ever feeling rushed or dragging. However, several moments feel off. For example (without spoilers), when it comes to the big match at the end, some of the characters who seemed like they wanted to make Thomas’ life more challenging (and who picked on him every opportunity they had) then seem happy for goals scored by Thomas’ team, which didn’t really add up for me. It felt cliche and not genuine to the character development we had seen.

There were a few moments like this where the character development and then the characters’ actions just didn’t add up for me.

Next Goal Wins
Photo Credit: Searchlight Pictures

The Performances

The performances here are all commendable. The actors embody their characters with sincerity and conviction, making it easy to feel connected to their individual journies.

Michael Fassbender as Thomas Rongen, the unconventional coach, delivers a strong performance despite some of the early rumblings that I had heard from fellow critics, stating that he was miscast in the role. I actually really enjoyed seeing him in this part, especially after having seen him in David Fincher’s The Killer last month, which just didn’t really work for me on a number of levels- despite a fine performance by Fassbender.

The real magic in this film lies in the supporting cast, which is comprised of a group of relatively unknown actors. However, each of them leaves a memorable mark on the movie and helps create a sense of authenticity with heart.

Next Goal Wins
Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures


Next Goal Wins is an enjoyable watch that does a beautiful job of capturing the spirit of perseverance and teamwork. Waititi’s distinctive touch is evident in every scene, from the cleverly interspersed humor to the heartfelt moments that tug at your emotions.

And while the film does stumble in some areas, not unlike Coach Rongen literally does at points, it still manages to deliver a satisfying watch overall. It’s endearing with its message, its characters, and that lovable Waititi charm. Essentially, you’re getting an episode of Ted Lasso – but written and directed by Taika Waititi.

Next Goal Wins Movie Review:

Grade: B-

Note: FanBolt’s Featured Image is fan art. We create this fan art purely for the love of design and fan culture. (We’re movie and design nerds). The property and fandom inspire the artwork, and no infringement is/was intended. Next Goal Wins is the property of Fox Searchlight.


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