Next Goal Wins

December 29, 2023 by Alex First
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A film review by Alex First         –        and Alex’s top twelve movies for 2023…and the worst

Alex’s top twelve for 2023:

Feel free to publish my best and worst films of 2023

1. Oppenheimer 10/10
2. ⁠Tar 9/10
3. ⁠The Whale 9/10
4. ⁠Poor Things 9/10
5. ⁠Marcel the Shell with Shoes On 8.5/10
6. ⁠Aftersun 8.5/10
7. ⁠Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse 8.5/10
8. ⁠Saltburn 8.5/10
9. ⁠Maestro 8.5/10
10. ⁠The Crime is Mine 8.5/10
11. ⁠Close 8.5/10
12. ⁠My Old School 8.5/10

Here is my stinker of the year:

Allelujah 2/10

And now the first for 2024. Next Goal Wins opens on January 1

Fact: In the 2001 World Cup qualifiers, Australia handed out the worst drubbing in the history of international soccer … to American Samoa.

It was a 31 – nil rout.

Things for the island nation didn’t improve thereafter either.

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A decade later, American Samoa was still the laughingstock of world football.

Next Goal Wins is the story of what happened next, told as a comedy.

First up, the president of the American Samoan Football Federation sacks the coach.

Then, he engages the services of a bad-tempered frontman who has been sacked from three similar roles.

Among those who axed him from his most recent position was his ex-wife, who has now taken up with another member of the selection committee.

What he is confronted with when he reluctantly lands on the island is a basket case of a side.

Playing hardball, which is what he is used to, doesn’t work.

Among the team members he has to deal with are a goalie who trips over his own feet and a forward who doesn’t seem to know where the goals are.

That is not to overlook a sensitive player who is transitioning.

All the president is looking for is a single goal, which would be an international first for American Samoa.

Getting it, though, will be anything but straightforward… and will certainly test the new coach’s staying power more than once.

Taika Watiti has crafted a small, feel-good movie that is heartfelt, funny and entertaining.

He wrote Next Goal Wins with Iain Morris and directed the film.

It presents the American Samoans as the salt of the earth, happy people who don’t take life too seriously. In fact, the picture particularly plays up that trait.

As much as the president wants to break the team’s perennial duck, he is more interested in the camaraderie that comes with being a member of the team.

Several of the sight gags are laugh-aloud funny.

It is the characters that make the piece and there is no shortage of those.

It is hard to go past Oscar Kightley as the good-natured president Tavita.

He plays his character as intent on retaining the essence of what it is to be an American Samoan.

Nothing seems to faze him, and he likes it that way.

Michael Fassbender plays imported coach Thomas Rongen like the fish out of water that he is.

Rongen gets angry and belligerent, but he comes to learn that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Fassbender has fun with the role. He leans into it.

Kaimana brings sensitivity to her role as transitioning footballer Jaiyah.

A ridiculously over-the-top, handlebar-moustachioed Taika Waititi narrates for maximum comic impact and plays the role of a priest.

Next Goal Wins is simply joyous and buoyant, truth-telling with a decidedly humorous bent … and as far as I am concerned, it scores!


Rated M, I give it a 7½ out of 10.  Runtime: 104 minutes

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