Champions: An Inspirational Sports Comedy

(L to R) Ernie Hudson as Coach Phil Peretti and Woody Harrelson as Marcus in director Bobby Farrelly's CHAMPIONS, released by Focus Features. Credit : Shauna Townley/Focus Features.

Champions–an English-language remake of Spanish Goya Award-winning Campeones–is an inspirational sports comedy about basketball.

It’s pretty sad that we live in a world where more often than not, it’s the English-language remake that gets someone to watch the film. That’s not to say that I don’t get it because I do. I know people that refuse to watch subtitled movies just because. At the same time, I always have a fear that the subtitles and the film’s watermark are going to overlap when watching from home. But I digress. The remake comes in the form of an inspirational sports comedy starring Woody Harrelson. Marcus (Woody Harrelson) is a G-League basketball coach who finds himself out of a job. He also becomes a meme but that’s another story and unfortunate SportsCenter highlight.

After being booed out of the game over arguing with Coach Peretti (Ernie Hudson) over a play, Marcus goes to the bar and next thing you know, he’s looking at the cops arresting a pair of people before hitting the police car. It ultimately results in a court order to coach a Special Olympics team of Disabled players known as the Friends. Like other coaches in a similar position, it’s an uphill climb but things eventually changer for the better. Unlike those other sports movies, they probably don’t give the coach a friend-with-benefits as they do with Alex (Kaitlin Olson). After their first encounter, they don’t expect to see each other again but Alex’s brother, Johnny (Kevin Iannucci), is on the team. All the while, Marcus has his eyes on the prize: getting to the NBA.

Bobby Farrelly has a good grasp of the action behind the camera. It helps to the film’s advantage that many of the actors have chemistry together from working with each other before. Harrelson worked with Hudson while the Ghostbuster previously worked with both Marin and Harrelson. There’s a good script here and you have to admire how Marcus goes from being at rock bottom back to a better place in his life. Meanwhile, many of the Friends are acting on screen for their first time in their lives. Farrelly’s son, AB, worked with the ten actors who make up the team.

While the film is set in Des Moines, Iowa, they film the production in Winnipeg. Sorry to any readers in or from Iowa!

While the sports comedy genre in general can be hit or miss, the inspirational sports comedy movie tends to do better. Champions benefits from the film taking a fresh approach to the inspirational sports movie genre.

DIRECTOR: Bobby Farrelly
CAST: Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, Matt Cook, with Ernie Hudson and Cheech Marin

Focus Features will release Champions in theaters on March 10, 2023. Grade: 3.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.