Next Goal Wins Parent Guide
Unevenly written and paced, this film manages to provide warmhearted messages about cultural acceptance along with a few good laughs.
Parent Movie Review
Fired from his latest high profile coaching job, Thomas Rongen (played by Michael Fassbender with bad hair dye) faces a stark choice. He can be unemployed (and darn near unemployable) or he can accept a four week assignment coaching the worst soccer team in the world, in a last ditch effort to qualify it for the World Cup.
It is no exaggeration to describe American Samoa as the world’s worst soccer team. Not only is it at the bottom of the rankings, but the team suffered the worst loss in the history of the sport, losing 31-0 to Australia in 2001.
Resigned to his lack of options, Rongen packs his suitcase and heads off to the tiny Pacific island. Whether or not he can succeed at his new job depends on two things. First, will he be able to control his notorious temper, and second, will he be able to respect and adapt to the culture of his new team?
Funnily enough, your response to this movie also relies on two factors. First, are you willing to be patient with a very uneven comedy? Comedies are the hardest movies to get right. A successful comedy needs all of its jokes to work (which doesn’t happen here), and it must be tightly paced, moving briskly along between laughs and plot development. This film has an adequate beginning and exciting finale, but the middle act is often painfully slow.
The second question is about sexual identity; specifically, how you view transgender characters. This story features Jaiyah (Kaimana), a transgender athlete, in a major role. The local culture has a space for transgender community members, who they call “fa’fafine”, and who they describe as being the “flowers in the garden”. Rongen’s journey from curiosity to aggression to acceptance is a key part of the plot, and while this will be appreciated by trans allies, it will antagonize some viewers with traditional sexual beliefs.
As for content issues, Next Goal Wins scores poorly in the alcohol category, with Rongen drowning his sorrows throughout the film. He’s constantly imbibing, and drives under the influence in one scene, with no negative consequences. The movie also features about 30 swear words and some relatively minor violence. There are even a few scenes where the head of the local soccer federation, Tavita Taumau (Oscar Kightley) is seen with women’s breasts doodled on his face, in consequence of losing a bet. It’s tasteless, but original – this isn’t something I’ve seen in a movie before. (And hope I don’t see it again.)
On the bright side, this film scores better in its messages of teamwork, perseverance, resilience, and cultural diversity. The most fun parts of the film are where Rongen’s Type A personality smacks up against the local culture, forcing him to reconsider his world view. The transformation of Rongen and his team is sufficiently heartening that people in the theater I attended clapped and cheered at the movie’s high points. Next Goal Wins might not be consistent, but at least it manages to generate some excitement and a few good laughs.
Directed by Taika Waititi. Starring Michael Fassbender, Kaimana, Will Arnett. Running time: 103 minutes. Theatrical release November 17, 2023. Updated November 17, 2023
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Next Goal Wins
Rating & Content Info
Why is Next Goal Wins rated PG-13? Next Goal Wins is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some strong language and crude material.
Violence: A person shoves and chokes another character. A man is seen being hit by a bus. There’s mention of a death in a vehicle accident. A woman hits her adult son with a shoe. An angry man throws chairs and drink coolers onto a soccer pitch. An irate coach frequently yells at and berates his team.
Sexual Content: A transgender character is a key part of the film. There’s vague mention of medical procedures for transgender people. There’s mention of “lady boobs” and “nads”. A man has women’s breasts drawn on his face with permanent marker: they are visible in several scenes.
Profanity: There are approximately 30 profanities in the script, including 18 scatological curses and a smattering of terms of deity, crude anatomical words, and minor profanities. There is a single sexual expletive and a sexual hand gesture.
Alcohol / Drug Use: The main character constantly consumes large quantities of alcohol. He drives while intoxicated and faces no negative consequences for it. Adults drink alcohol at social functions and at a sports event.
Page last updated November 17, 2023
Next Goal Wins Parents' Guide
This movie is based on a true story. For details about the real Thomas Rongen, check out this link:
Related home video titles:
For another sports film that features a coach learning from the different perspectives of his players, you can try the basketball movie Champions.
Another underdog sports film that focuses on a national team is Invictus, which retells the true story of South Africa’s post-apartheid rugby team.