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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Wendy Ide

Next Goal Wins review – droll account of the world’s worst football team

‘A South Pacific spin on the Local Hero arc’: Oscar Kightley and Michael Fassbender in Next Goal Wins
‘A South Pacific spin on the Local Hero arc’: Oscar Kightley and Michael Fassbender in Next Goal Wins. Photograph: Searchlight Pictures

The latest film from Taika Waititi, a droll account of the real-life travails of the world’s worst international football team, American Samoa, opens with a shot of the director. Playing a local priest, sporting a Jesus-print surplice, he delivers what’s best described as the metaphorical Waititi wink-to-camera. But even when he’s not mugging on screen, Waititi’s personality is evident in every frame, which suggests that he is rather overestimating the level of audience goodwill towards him, which has been depleted by the divisive Jojo Rabbit and the mediocre Thor: Love and Thunder.

Next Goal Wins, which is based on a documentary, is an affable, slightly slapdash crowd-pleaser that relies on the considerable charm of its local cast. Michael Fassbender plays Thomas Rongen, the troubled coach recruited to help the team bounce back from the worst defeat in international soccer history: a 31-0 loss to Australia. Over the course of numerous comedy training montages (no goal is too open for the film’s humour), Rongen finds himself won over by the American Samoan way of life, in this South Pacific spin on the Local Hero arc.

Watch a trailer for Next Goal Wins.
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