A humorous story about two boys and one woman, Special Olympics basketball hopefuls with intellectual and developmental disabilities who seek to become cynical coaches, played by Woody Harrelson, whom the champions adore.
The structure is similar to The Green Book, directed by Bobby's brother Peter Farrelly, which deals with racial prejudice and the mindless shopping of white men in the civil rights era. In both films, you might be wondering: are we really focusing on the most interesting character? Or someone who can get the green light for production?
The film is a remake of the hit and loved 2018 Spanish comedy-drama Campeones. (Another remake, this one is set in India.) Stuck in Des Moines, Iowa after being fired as a semi-professional assistant coach and due to a DUI sentenced to 90 days of community service, Marcus (Harrelson) is reluctantly concerned about the fate of the opposing team at a troubled community center.
Primarily friction and irritation for our main character. Little by little, he and his teammates, the friends, learn some basics and lower their defenses. I've seen the original, although most people who will see champions haven't seen it; A quick look at the film's Spanish-language trailer reveals its similarity to the remake, albeit with changes.
No longer a man tied to his wife, Coach Marcus is a lone wolf we meet after purposely setting him up with actress Alex (Caitlin Olsen) on Tinder. Johnny (Kevin Iannucci, excellent), Down Syndrome, is the older sister of one of Marcus' players.
Neurodivergent characters in Champions have the ability to express themselves in different ways. But that's the way some things are done, and there's a cut to Harrelson's giggle/hate/piss.
However, there are tradeoffs. Best known for It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Olson makes his scenes with Harrelson fresh and sensitive. Des Moines starred in Winnipeg, Canada, and this time see and enjoy the snow and cold in a low-budget studio project; it serves the story. It's also important to be mindful of hiring neurodivergent film crews, where Farrelly's film is sure to be accepted. I just wish side characters weren't covered here and that Champions wasn't primarily about another trainer hitting rock bottom and getting back up. In reworking the 2018 film, the filmmakers missed an opportunity to focus more on the actors than on brief cuts about how things are going in their lives.
Meanwhile, in a new "Champions" trailer, an actor said to a friend during the credits, "I want to be in this movie!" It's an honest statement. There are moments and scenes that develop an interesting complexity, including the dinner sequence – Marcus arrives for dinner at his girlfriend's, his brother's and his mother's home – and his hidden feelings are finally revealed in a way that feels like the real thing Live and not feel like a movie. (or at least the rest of this movie). Disarming one minute and grossly manipulative the next, "Champions" is hard work. At one point, Marcus commends his players for dealing with "what you do to ignorant people every day," which, while well-intentioned and grounded in grim reality, helps these characters, as the film itself explains. Repayment history selected.
2 stars (out of 4)
Rating: PG-13 (for violence and gross/sexual innuendo)
How to watch: Friday at the cinema
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