Would you say Taika Waititi has lost a bit of his luster lately? He once soared high on the power of his early indies (“Eagle vs. Shark,” “Boy” and “What We Do in the Shadows” was made!) and then turned to more mainstream films (“Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Jojo Rabbit”), the last few years haven’t been kind to him, between the lukewarm receptions of both “Thor: Love and Thunder” and now “Next Goal Wins.” Time will tell if this is just a bump in the road. But while the first disappointment has passed its aggressive posthumous period, the second requires further explanation.
In short, “Next Goal Wins” probably fell victim to a few flaws that worked against it. First of all, there are the consequences of numerous delays. Production originally wrapped in January 2020, but the pandemic scuttled any plans to release the film before this year. “Next Goal Wins,” which was originally scheduled to debut in April 2023 and then in September, finally hit theaters this past weekend. This ties in nicely with the competitive angle, where the release of “Songbirds and Snakes,” “Thanksgiving” and “Trolls Band Together” combines with hits like “The Marvels” and “Five Nights at Freddy’s” to drown out the feel-good sports drama , which, honestly, many American moviegoers don’t care much about. Unfortunately, the outlook for the future doesn’t look too rosy, with both Disney’s “The Wish” and Ridley Scott’s historical epic “Napoleon” taking up even more theater screens this Thanksgiving break. Finally, there’s a disappointing critical consensus and a lackluster B+ CinemaScore from audiences.
Overall, “Next Goal Wins” wasn’t able to get his best shot.