Reverse-Ted Lasso Is Formulaic, But Very Funny

Both “Ted Lasso” and “Next Goal Wins” center around struggling soccer teams that bring in a coach from another country to shake things up, but the character dynamics are flipped between the two stories. Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) is initially ignorant to the rules of the game but gradually earns the respect of the players by sheer kindness and helps them improve. In “Next Goal Wins,” it’s the American Samoan football players and their federation leader Tavita (Oscar Kightley) who are the unskilled but unflappably nice and optimistic ones, not even caring about winning so much as being able to score any goal a decade after the most embarrassing loss in soccer history (31-0 against Australia in 2001). In contrast, the new coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) is a complete jerk who for much of the movie is not actually of much help to the team.

Waititi is clearly using this story as a means to parody white savior narratives — the trope gets called out by name at one point. One particularly funny scene involves tricking Thomas into sticking with the team by playing off of mystical Indigenous stereotypes that white people “love.” The cultural setting is a big part of what makes the film interesting, and various aspects of life in American Samoa make for great running gags, like the way everyone works seemingly every job, the extreme religiosity that causes the town to freeze in prayer at certain times, and the island-wide 20 mph speed limit which results in the world’s slowest police chase.

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