Based on the Spanish film ‘Campeones’ written by Javier Fesser and David Marqués, ‘Champions’ is a hilarious and heartfelt sports movie that really delivers a feel-good win – just when cinema audiences really needed one too after heavy awards-season fodder. Mark Rizzo’s brilliantly adapted screenplay is brought to life by director Bobby Farrelly. Having delivered all-time comedy classics like ‘Dumb and Dumber’, ‘Kingpin’ and ‘There’s Something About Mary’, Bobby Farrelly knows the genre very well and easily delivers the laughs here, but there’s also a wonderful sentiment running through the film that lends the project a lot of genuine heart and emotional investment.
After a spat with his friend and boss Phil Perretti (Ernie Hudson) that results in his contract termination, minor-league basketball coach Marcus (Woody Harrelson) spirals and soon finds himself with a DUI offence. In court, the judge offers him a simple choice – do some time behind bars or community service in the form of coaching a local youth team with intellectual disabilities. So Marcus takes charge of the team, known as ‘The Friends’ and looks to take them to the play-off spots for the Special Olympics.
The ensemble is brilliant in ‘Champions’, with Woody Harrelson and Kaitlin Olson leading the line very well. Harrelson is excellent as Marcus, who learns from his mistakes and from his new team of players. It’s wonderful to see Olson on the big screen after years of killing it on TV (in ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’, ‘Hacks’ and ‘Flipped’ to name but three). Their chemistry sparkles onscreen right from the very first scene, and their performances are very funny and sincere.
Kevin Iannucci, Joshua Felder, Madison Tevlin, Ashton Gunning, Matthew Von Der Ahe, Tom Sinclair, James Day Keith, Alex Hintz, Casey Metcalfe and Bradley Edens make up the ‘Friends’ basketball team and they all shine in memorable, funny and well-rounded roles. It’s inclusion of disabled actors, (something Farrelly has always championed) is brilliant to see in ‘Champions’ and the ensemble deliver some wonderful scenes and emotional exchanges. But its never done in an exploitative way, which was so refreshing to see.
‘Champions’ is a great sports movie with a good message at its core. The ensemble are all great, it has two magnetic leads and its always great to see screen legend Cheech Marin and ‘Ghostbusters’ royalty Ernie Hudson back on the big screen too. Matt Cook is also very entertaining as Marcus’ assistant coach Sonny. The story is an engaging and gripping underdog tale of success and emotional growth, that is packed full of good gags and entertaining set-pieces as the team make a bid for a place at the Special Olympics. Basketball fans will also find a great courtside movie in here too. All in, ‘Champions’ is a fantastic sports comedy with plenty of heart and is an easy slam-dunk success.
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, Ernie Hudson, Cheech Marin, Matt Cook, Kevin Iannucci, Joshua Felder, Madison Tevlin, Ashton Gunning, Matthew Von Der Ahe, Tom Sinclair, James Day Keith, Alex Hintz, Casey Metcalfe, Bradley Edens Director: Bobby Farrelly Writer: Mark Rizzo, Javier Fesser, David Marqués Certificate: 12A Duration: 123 mins Released by: Universal Release date: 10th March 2023