SYNOPSIS: Woody Harrelson stars in the hilarious and heartwarming story of a former minor-league basketball coach who, after a series of missteps, is ordered by the court to manage a team of players with intellectual disabilities. He soon realizes that despite his doubts, together, this team can go further than they ever imagined.
The Farrelly brothers’ comedy, Me, Myself & Irene was accused of making an inaccurate portrayal of mental illness back in the year 2000. Nearly more than two decades later, Bobby Farrelly in his first solo directing effort helmed this feel-good, underdog sports movie about a basketball team consisting of intellectual disabled players.
Woody Harrelson plays a temperamental minor-league basketball coach, Marcus Marakovich who after getting drunk and crashing into a police car is ordered by the Judge to serve 90 days of community service. His new assignment is to coach a basketball team named “Friends” consisting mainly of people with learning disabilities at the local community center.
As expected, Champions which is a remake of a 2018 Spanish film is highly predictable but awfully charming. Much of the appeal lies in the casting of mostly non-professional actors who provide the movie with much genuine laughs and chemistry. There’s a character named Showtime who only shoots the ball backwards, a character named Johnny who doesn’t shower, another who keeps spouting fun facts and the only spunky lady in the team, Cosentino (Canadian actress Madison Tevlin).
Not forgetting Harrelson whom of course plays the egoistic, cocky assistant coach perfectly while his character’s on-and-off relationship with Johnny’s sister, Alex (Kaitlin Olson) adds some needed romance angle to the various quirky ball games.
Those hoping for some classic, offensive Farrelly humour might be a tad disappointed given that the entire movie is so wholesome (with the exception of some mild vulgar bits) that it’s probably going down as Bobby Farrelly’s first movie for the entire family. Anyway, the formulaic plotting involves the “Friends” getting into the finals in Canada and Marcus being finally offered his dream NBA coaching job. It’s not that hard to guess how the movie is going to end at this point.
Despite the familiarity, Farrelly and screenwriter Mark Rizzo effortlessly create a sports movie that is equally entertaining and likeable. Sure, the characters of Johnny or Showtime might be more interesting than Marcus. Still, Champions is easily more meaningful than the average cinematic treat. Bobby Farrelly has finally redeemed himself.
Review by Linus Tee