starring: woody harrelson, kevin iannucci, matthew von der ahe, and kaitlin olson
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A former minor-league basketball coach is ordered by the court to manage a team of players with intellectual disabilities.
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 temptation with a film like Champions is to overplay its hand emotionally or in its portrayal of the team players with intellectual disabilities, making them caricatures instead of portraying them as real people. Instead Champions crafts a feel-good movie with characters of depth that ring true, giving it a whole lot of heart and laughter along the way.
Champions hits all the notes of a feel-good sports film: disgraced coach searching for a comeback meets a team of misfits that are underperforming. What makes Champions different to all the rest is in its story structure and character development.
The team players aren’t played for laughs - their characters are fleshed out and we are shown much of the lives that they live as they are introduced to Coach Marcus. In this we gain appreciation not only for their skills and talents off the basketball court, but also the different challenges that they each face. Champions does a stellar job in its representation of differing disabilities and in doing so helps educate and inform the audience.
There are different beats of the story where sitting there you feel like you know where it's going to go. But Champions treads a different trail, choosing to go against the audience's preconceived expectations and the film and its characters are richer for it.
Champions is a feel-good movie with characters of depth that ring true, giving it a whole lot of heart and laughter along the way.