Taika Waititi is one of the most distinctive contemporary directors. Moreover, while almost all of his filmmaking colleagues are trying to seem bigger and better, Waititi seems to simply be doing everything that brings him sincere pleasure. He plays extravagant characters in his own films, travels, and participates in social initiatives. Let’s just say, he certainly doesn’t get bored. “Next Goal Wins” is Waititi’s new film. We’ll tell you in our review how it turned out.
an eternal story of overcoming at the heart of the plot; some unusual and funny moments; general non-standard aesthetics of football
absurdity and frivolity kills the influence of the plot on the audience; the acting leaves much to be desired; weird, cheap directing
“Next Goal Wins”
Genre sports comedy
Directed by Taika Waititi
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Oscar Kightley, Rachel House, Bela Koale, Will Arnett, Elisabeth Moss
Release year 2024
Football coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) loves his job and his chosen sport. But his love must be put to the test when he is named coach of the American Samoan soccer team. It is considered the weakest in the world, and local players know practically nothing. Rongen is on the verge of despair, but is still ready to make every effort to achieve his goal.
It just so happens in human nature that we love stories about outsiders and losers who, through hard work, achieve, if not well-deserved success, then at least internal fulfillment. It’s a very tired storyline that still works, just like nostalgia and other similar timeless emotions. Therefore, it will be actively used in films, most likely, constantly.
“The next goal is the winner” is no exception to this rule; it does not bring anything new to the classic plot outline. But the situation with him is still somewhat more interesting than just a story of overcoming. The film is based on the documentary of the same name. That is, the story of a very bad football team that once lost 31-0 is very real. And this makes its own adjustments to the narrative.
On the one hand, the film acquires greater value. He becomes sincere and honest in front of the audience, even taking into account all the antics and winks that Waititi loves so much. Local absurdity, of which there is plenty in cinema, becomes part of objective reality. And this has its own magic.
On the other hand, stories about losers are so often shown in works of art precisely because they do not fit well with real life. They are too romanticized and naive to fully actually happen. That’s why we can only enjoy fiction to be inspired and try to become better ourselves.
Taika Waititi tries to blend his true story of trying to be a better person with his own directorial style, but he absolutely fails at it. What happens at the junction is not synergy, but conflict.
Stupid jokes and even stupider non-jokes make it difficult to understand the story of people who, after their failures, try to become better people. This approach shifts the focus from the main ideas of the film to kitschy scenes, due to which the main ideas, morals and motive of the film are lost.
Sometimes it seems that the viewer is shown a cut of individual scenes that are only distantly related to the main plot and football in general. And it might have made sense if these scenes had been worthy apart from the film’s foundation. But no, many of them make you smile awkwardly and make you want to squeeze into your chair even more while watching. Remember Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder? It’s embarrassing to admit, but some of the scenes here are even worse than one of the worst Marvel films.
The absurdity of the movie prevents the cast from fully revealing themselves. It feels like Fassbender’s on-screen suffering represents not just his character, but also his impressions of the filming itself. He is constantly surrounded by half/half-clowns, including, of course, the hero Waititi himself. The feelings are very mixed.
Even the direction of the film is unpleasant. Waititi’s flirtations with theater have always been felt, but here they look so cheap and cartoonish that it is almost impossible to justify them with artistic vision. Some independent films look a lot more expensive than this $14 million budget movie. Which, let’s be honest, is also not very much, but they could clearly be used better.
In the end, it turns out that the film takes the right and interesting ideas, but as if it deliberately does everything so that you cannot get into them. The good news is that the power of the “underdog stories” is strong enough to break through the weirdness of Waititi’s direction. But why endure all this is an unanswered question.
“The Next Goal Is the Winner” is best viewed as a 2014 documentary. Everything there is more honest, more serious and, oddly enough, even filmed better. Which already eloquently says everything you need to know about Waititi’s new dubious work.