REVIEW: Next Goal Wins ‘weaves humour, heart and a hint of sporting reality’

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Taika Waititi’s latest flick Next Goal Wins is screening in New Zealand cinemas this summer.

The screenplay is written by Waititi and Ian Morris, with the movie directed by Waititi whose previous works include Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok and the Oscar-winning Jojo Rabbit.

Reviewed by Rachel Lilburn

Roughly based on a true story and the documentary of the same name, it takes us on the journey of the American Samoan football team, infamous for their 31-0 defeat to Australia in 2001, as they enlist a new coach just three weeks before the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

Their simple mission? To score a single international goal.

While it treads the familiar terrain of the underdog sports biopic, Waititi infuses the narrative with his distinctive Kiwi humour.

It’s less about football and more about navigating the nuances of love, loss, faith, and identity — a tale of perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

The dialogue — and some of the jokes — felt a tad clunky and awkward at times, but the humour managed to elicit laughter from all three kids I took along (aged 13, 11, and 9).

What stuck with me? The striking contrast in scale of national teams — American Samoa, with a population of about 50,000 people (think: Whanganui), pitted against Australia, boasting 25 million.

Next Goal Wins doesn’t set out to revolutionize the sports biopic genre, but it weaves together humour, heart, and a hint of sporting reality.

It’s an enjoyable watch, laced with Taika Waititi’s unmistakable touch.

A great option for a rainy day.

Main photo: Still from the move. Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures.

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Rachel Lilburn

Taupō-based Rachel Lilburn is the mother of a football-mad youngster, a team manager and volunteer. She writes for Friends of Football, specialising in feature stories about young footballers, their pathways and junior/youth tournaments.

Official trailer

Here’s what to expect from Next Goal Wins:

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