Taika Waititi’s second didn’t final lengthy.

The quirky expertise behind “The Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” “What We Do in the Shadows” and, most significantly, “Jojo Rabbit” provided a contemporary tackle staid Hollywood formulation.

His “Thor Ragnarok” doubled down on his twee aesthetic, mixing MCU heroics with large stomach laughs.

Then he gave us “Thor: Love and Thunder,” a colossal misstep and the primary suggestion his imaginative and prescient has an expiration date.

The director’s “Next Goal Wins” all however confirms it. The very fact-based story of an underdog soccer staff appears completely suited to his talent set. But practically each component of this may’t-miss story flops like a baller faking an ankle sprain.

Michael Fassbender stars as Thomas Rongen, a soccer coach in determined want of redemption. He’s hot-headed and brash, and he’s handed one of many worst teaching assignments for his potential comeback.

Steer American Samoa’s horrible, terrible no-good soccer squad to victory, or on the very least the staff’s first purpose.

Good luck.

Thomas rails in opposition to the gamers’ carefree method, willingness to hope at choose occasions of the day and lack of aggressive hearth.

Plus, they’re horrible at, you understand, soccer. They as soon as misplaced 31-0, thoughts you.

Thomas rapidly butts heads with Jaiyah (Kaimana), the staff’s trans participant. The character is fa’afafine, an American Samoan phrase that roughly interprets to nonbinary however comes with a posh collection of cultural identifiers.

For what it’s price, trans athlete Jaiyah Saelua performed on the true American Samoan staff so the character’s inclusion isn’t woke, simply traditionally correct.

Jaiyah is the one participant on the staff who emerges as a fully-dimensional soul. The remaining show interchangeable, and co-writer Waititi exhibits little curiosity in addressing that.

The remainder of the movie appears like Waititi enjoying in his most well-liked sandbox, lowering each character interplay to a infantile assortment of winks and grins. He can’t take a lot of something critically, and the movie’s basement-level stakes verify it.

The locals emerge as candy and naive, spiritually sound and unfailingly affected person. They need to have despatched this model of  Thomas packing on multiple event given his gruff nature and fiery mood.

Fassbender is a terrific actor, however nobody might make sense of the Thomas Rongen on show in “Next Goal Wins.” His demeanor adjustments from scene to scene, and the addition of his separated spouse (Elisabeth Moss) to the story can’t flesh out his motivations.

Waititi, to his credit score, provides Jaiyah depth, maturity and, most notably, flaws. But he treats Thomas so poorly it’s like he feared critics would dub him a “white savior” character and trash the movie (he may very well be proper). The screenplay actually mentions that phrase.

The screenplay’s contempt for the coach is palpable.

Shouldn’t a sports activities film present some respect for the inspirational coach, as an alternative of displaying him crib strains from well-known sports activities motion pictures?

What did Thomas deliver to the staff, anyway? The movie hasn’t a clue and nor will confused audiences on the best way out of the theater. Few sports activities movies show as disinterested within the sport in query as “Next Goal Wins.”

Will Arnett of “Arrested Development” fame performs the brand new man in Thomas’ ex-wife’s life, stepping in for Armie Hammer following the star’s weird Hollywood scandal. It’s a glorified cameo beneath Gob’s abilities.

Waititi does convey a number of the territory’s tradition, from its deeply non secular nature to its curious model of “trash talk.” Besides each new wrinkle comes pre-packaged with yuks and smiles, diminishing their dramatic influence.

“Next Goal Wins” could also be finest remembered for misusing the basic Dolly Parton hit “9 to 5” or for a tone-deaf reveal within the third act that ought to have arrived an hour earlier

HiT or Miss: “Next Goal Wins” appeared like catnip to a director like Taika Waititi. As a substitute, it’s a misfire on each stage that counts.