Next Goal Wins

Ted Lasso this is not

It’s a true story. After the national soccer team of American Samoa lost a FIFA game by the humiliating score of 31 to nothing, the team decided to bring in an equally down-on-his-luck foreign coach.

Now, everyone loves sports underdog movies, and, given the sub-genre’s inherent charm, it’s nearly impossible to make a bad one. The worst you can end up with is average, and that’s what we have here.

It’s based on a 2014 documentary of the same name, and you know your dramatization is in trouble when the source doc wins awards and you don’t. Even a hugely miscast Michael Fassbender as the new coach can’t give this cliched mess much kick.

What bummed me out most about this amiable, moderately amusing airliner movie is who directed it. I’ve been a fan of Taika Waititi since Flight of the Conchords. I didn’t love Jojo Rabbit, but that was because I don’t find Hitler remotely cute. And I ignored Thor: Love and Thunder because, well, everyone did. Waititi has always imparted a certain quirkiness to his movies and has never been afraid of taking the Big Swing. I hope he will be able to step back and resist being drawn into the dreaded Hollywood pool of “journeyman” directors. (104 min)