A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
With hardwork, teamwork, and a little bit of faith, anything's possible. Never give up. It's important to find enjoyment in the things you do.
Positive Role Models
After a series of failures and disasters, Thomas Rongen has become a bitter man who begrudgingly takes the job as the coach of the American Samoan soccer team. He initially comes across as uninspiring and rude, showing sexist and transphobic attitudes toward Jaiyah, a fa'afafine (or third gender) player on the team. However, his attitudes slowly change as he warms to the team, who in turn warm to him. Jaiyah is one of the better players on the team and is respected and treated well by her teammates. She puts the team before herself, to the detriment of her well-being. Tavita is the Head of the Football Federation of American Samoa and remains positive throughout, supporting both the team and its coach.
The film is about the American Samoan soccer team with the actors who play these roles being of Pacific Islander heritage and various body shapes. American Samoan culture and traditions including singing, dancing, food, and dress are discussed and portrayed. One of the players, Jaiyah, is fa'afafine, who are Samoans who identify as having a third gender or non-binary role. Jaiyah is treated with respect by her fellow teammates and plays an important role in the team as well as the film. But main character, Thomas Rongen, a White Dutch-American coach initially makes transphobic and sexist comments about her. He also calls them by their birth name, despite him being told explicitly not to. Jaiyah is also on the receiving end of derogatory comments from the Tongan football team. Later, Jaiyah and Rongen have a conversation about Jaiyah's hormone treatment and how she'll no longer qualify for the men's team -- Jaiyah experiences intense gender dysphoria (when a person has a sense of unease due to a conflict between the sex they were assigned at birth and their gender identity), which is glossed over rather than thoughtfully explored. While on paper, the story can read like a "White Savior" narrative, the film doesn't portray Rongen as a hero; it's the team that saves Rongen. The film is directed and co-written by Taika Waititi, who's Māori and Jewish.
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Violence & Scariness
A character loses their temper on more than one occasion, shouting and throwing chairs and other objects. Someone is hit by a vehicle (played for comedic effect). A character is body slammed to the floor and briefly choked after deliberately offending someone. Reference to someone dying in a car accident. A character collapses, which is later revealed to be a result of heat stroke. In the background of a medical tent, someone is seen with an object protruding from a bloody wound in their midriff -- they seem fine and are even seen drinking a beer. A mother hits her adult son with a sandal before throwing it at her husband. A character tells two (untrue) stories about their dog being killed. There's a scene of extreme gender dysphoria that may be triggering for some.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A non-binary character discusses the fact they take hormones and that eventually they will no longer be allowed to play for the men's soccer team. A character has 11 pairs of "boobs" drawn on their face. Two drunken characters obnoxiously jostle their friend while saying "give him a bumming."
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One use of "f--k." Also "s--t," "crap," "a--hole," "asses," "son of a bitch," "bitches," "loser," "boobs," "jeez," "hell," "idiot," and "dumb." "Oh my God," "Jesus," and "Jesus Christ" used as exclamations. Middle finger gesture. A main character calls someone by their birth name, despite being told explicitly not to.
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Products & Purchases
A brief shot of a Hawaiian Airlines aeroplane. Reference to McDonald's and films such as The Matrix, Taken, and Any Given Sunday.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A main character drinks throughout with the suggestion being that they have a dependence on alcohol. They pay a young child to buy them whiskey and are seen drinking while driving, behaving erratically and being pulled over by the police, although without any serious consequences. Characters are seen drinking champagne at an event. Two characters appear drunk and behave obnoxiously. References to and depiction of a character taking hormone drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Next Goal Wins is a feel-good dramedy, loosely based on real events and directed and co-written by Taika Waititi, about the American Samoan soccer team and their re-emergence from a confidence-smashing 31-0 defeat to Australia. The film is notable for casting a fa'afafine actor (a Samoan person who identifies as having a third gender or non-binary role) called Kaimana to play Jaiyah Saelua, the first openly transgender athlete to compete in a World Cup qualifier. Jaiyah is treated with respect by her fellow teammates and is one of the most important players on the team. But she faces transphobia from team coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender), at least initially, including him using her birth name when he's been asked not to. This results in Jaiyah body slamming him to the floor and briefly choking him. There's also a scene of extreme gender dysphoria that may be upsetting for some viewers. Someone is struck by a vehicle, and another person is randomly seen in a medical tent with an object sticking out of a bloody wound in their midriff -- both of these incidents are played for laughs. Rongen drinks a lot, although he's never seen especially drunk. Frequent language includes "s--t," "bitches," and one use of "f--k." As is typical for many underdog sports movies, there are strong themes of perseverance and teamwork. A documentary about this story was released in 2014. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Sports fans, and soccer fans in particular, may be familiar with the American Samoan's national team's humbling 31-0 defeat to Australia in 2001. Taika Waititi's Next Goal Wins takes the aftermath of this monstering and creates a feel-good, if unremarkable, film about the team's quest for redemption. Waititi directed, co-wrote, and even pops up as an American Samoan priest, and the movie is peppered with with sporadic surreal moments that have become something of the filmmaker's calling card. Top billing is given to Fassbender, whose Coach Rongen is a difficult character to warm to, at least initially. Quick to anger and with little patience for his team of underdogs, his transphobia toward third-gender character Jaiyah early on in the film grates and his redemption arc feels a little too sympathetic. However, the film avoids any "White Savior" narrative, with Waititi championing the team's own cultural identity as their key to success rather than any brilliant tactics by their "Palagi" or White coach. At a modest 103 minutes, the film never feels like a chore, but it's also unlikely to warrant any repeat viewing.
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