At The Movies: Next Goal Wins, Trending Topic fail to score

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Next Goal Wins (NC16)

104 minutes, opens on Dec 7 2 stars

The story: The American Samoa team is the world’s worst national football squad, infamous for a historic 31-0 loss to Australia in 2001. American coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassender) has three weeks to turn things around for the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers in this true tale.

Next Goal Wins, a feature adaptation of a 2014 documentary of the same name, is like every underdog sports dramedy.

The plot is paint-by-numbers. There are the requisite slapstick training montages and conflicts with the foreign coach in the run-up to an odds-defying triumph.

That the writer-director-producer is Taika Waititi is the only surprise. This Maori multi-hyphenate brought zany idiosyncrasy to the superhero behemoth Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and is cherished for his indigenous stories, the vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows (2014) and the box-office record-breakers Boy (2010) and Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016).

His stereotyping of the diverse Polynesian Triangle ensemble as lovable losers is hence depressing.

The characters are barely differentiated except for Tavita (Oscar Kightley), the cheery local federation chief, and striker Jaiyah Saelua (newcomer Kaimana), who was the first transgender player in a World Cup. She is a character leagues more interesting than Irish actor Fassbender’s uninspired performance of the coach.

All the natives nevertheless exist solely to support Rongen’s redemptive journey.

An alcoholic with anger issues, the experienced but troublesome manager has been banished to the island for want of other job assignments. He throws chairs and tantrums on the pitch until he learns finally to embrace the community’...

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