March 10th, 2023
STARRING: WOODY HARRELSON, KAITLIN OLSON, ERNIE HUDSON, CHEECH MARIN
DIRECTED BY: BOBBY FARRELLY
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Champions has heart and good intentions. If movies were graded alone on the kindness of those making them, there might not be any bad movies, or maybe just kinder film criticism. Either way, that’s not what the criteria is for what makes a movie good and sadly I think director Bobby Farrelly assumes it should be enough. Champions is the standard sports story, where a basketball coach gets down on his luck, and must rediscover himself by helping disabled kids for community service. Champions is less of a slam dunk and more like an air-ball.
Woody Harrelson stars as Marcus, a one-time coach of Ohio State, and now scraping the bottom in the J-League for a team in Des Moines, Iowa. Can’t get any lower right? Hold my basketball. Marcus gets into a public sideline scuffle with head coach Perretti (Ernie Hudson doing standard work), he’s fired, and gets a DUI. For his penalty, he is remanded to do ninety days of community service, and that involves coaching a team of disabled teens called the “Friends”. “If I can’t call them the R-word, what do I call them”, asks Marcus. “Their names.” is how the judge responds. Clearly some lessons will be learned.
It’s quite evident from the first few frames that Champions is just going to go through the beats. It’s a remake of the Spanish film Campeones, with the new screenplay updated by Mark Rizzo, and has every predictable cliche. Halfway through Marcus becomes reacquainted with one of the kids sister Alex (Kaitlin Olson– the films only real highlight), which starts as a bit of bickering, and soon the two enjoy a casual relationship. Meanwhile, Marcus is starting to get the kids playing, enjoying friendships with Julio (Cheech Marin) the custodial worker, and finding his new found sense of redemption.
The sad part about Champions is that you’re rooting for it to succeed. It’s a nice reunion of Harrelson and Farrelly in a sports movie after Kingpin, plus the potential for a good laugh or two. Even those are sporadic. Jokes and the dialogue is constantly contrived. That’s because it leans on similar sports movies from Hustle, The Mighty Ducks, The Bad News Bears, and a previous Harrellson movie Semi-Pro. On top of that we see the major problem that teens on the basketball team are not actors and instead of getting to know their struggle, are then presented for us to gawk at their qwerks. There’s a debate later on if Marcus’ story is being exploited by a NBA team that calls him and the irony is that Farrelly does just that to the teenage students. It’s increasingly painful.
There’s just not enough there to recommend Champions. It’s slightly uplifting, has a few chuckles along the way, but it’s ultimately boring. That’s a word you never expect to say from the guy who mde Dumb & Dumber. The team starts to get better and we’re all expecting to learn something along the way. You know where this goes and unfortunately Champions is first in cliches and last in originality.
CHAMPIONS IS PLAYING IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY MARCH 10TH, 2023.
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady