- Woody Harrelson, Ernie Hudson, Cheech Marin, Matt Cook
- Written by
- Javier Fesser and David Marqués ( based on the screenplay by). Mark Rizzo ( screenplay)
- Directed by
- Bobby Farrelly
- Run Time
- 2h 3min
- Release Date
- March 24th, 2023
Thirty-one years ago, Woody Harrelson played Billy Hoyle, a guy who was able to use the color of his skin to hustle people on a basketball court in White Man Can’t Jump. Along the way, Harrelson also played for the Flint Michigan Tropics in Semi-Pro, so of course he would eventually end up as a coach somewhere. I do know that these movies do not connect at all, but there is nothing wrong with pretending that those two have lead Harrelson to become a champion.
Marcus (Woody Harrelson) is a great basketball mind, but he also has a little bit of an anger issues. It is during a game that Marcus pushes his head coach, Phil Perretti (Ernie Hudson), after he didn’t want to run a play he thought would work better. If that wasn’t a bad day already, Marcus then drinks too much and ends up in jail. Now to avoid serving time, he is given an option to coach a bunch of kids who have intellectual disabilities for ninety days, if he can do that, his charges will be dismissed. Marcus walks into this as a punishment, but soon he warms up to the team as they start to melt the hard parts of Marcus’s heart away. Although they at first are not very good, Marcus starts to get them to work as a team and with the help of Alex (Katlin Olson) he is able to bring them together. Along the way of discovering about his players, Marcus also finds out more about himself and who he really is.
Written by Mark Rizzo, Javier Fresser, and David Marqués, Champions is definitely not a gourmet meal, but it still goes down pretty easy. Where it feels like the writers went wrong was in choosing to focus on Marcus’s story instead of the kids, as it almost at times feels like they are pushed to the side. The story though does have its heart in the right place, as the jokes are never at anyone’s expense, and it is does a fine job of being an underdog sports movie, something most of us love. The other thing that helps is it just looks like the cast is having the time of their lives, and that energy transfers to the audience as you can’t help but want to see these kids succeed.
Sports comedies can always be a hit or miss, but films like Champions tend to do better because of their inspirational story. The cast’s chemistry really uplifts the film and Harrelson is his usually laid back self, with that charm of his and makes it easy for you to root for his character too. Although most might not remember much of this movie after seeing it, it does exactly what it attempts to do, which is to provide a feel good story everyone can enjoy.