In "Next Goal Wins," Taika Waititi, serving as producer, director, co-writer, and cast member, disappoints as the film falls short of its potential to portray American Samoa's football journey, raising questions about creative decisions.
Despite adapting from a heartwarming documentary, Waititi's attempt at humor in "Next Goal Wins" falls flat, turning potential feel-good moments into frustrating punchlines, losing the engaging essence of the original underdog story.
Rather than highlighting American Samoa's uniqueness, the film succumbs to clichéd character backstories that add little to the plot or character development, missing opportunities to capture the true spirit of the underdog narrative.
Waititi's interpretation of coach Thomas Rongen in "Next Goal Wins" misrepresents the documentary's nuanced narrative, suggesting a dismissal of a non-binary player until personal factors influenced Rongen's perception, raising concerns about character accuracy.
While critiquing the Western exoticization of island life, the film paradoxically embraces these clichés. Depicting the island's footballers as unserious about the sport contradicts the documentary's portrayal of their genuine passion and dedication.
"Next Goal Wins" departs from showcasing the genuine passion of American Samoa's football players, suggesting a fictionalized Rongen was needed to make them take the game seriously, stripping away the dignity of their authentic love for the sport.