I recently saw the 2023 movie Champions with Woody Harrelson as Marcus, a minor league basketball coach who is fired from his job for calling plays against the head coach, Phil (Ernie Hudson). He goes out to a bar and has one too many which results in a car crash. This lands him in court with a DUI charge. The woman judge gives him two options: either face considerable jail time or coach the Friends, a developmentally-delayed group of basketball players.
His former coach had previously accused him of not getting to know his players personally and making real connections. This time, if he wants to win during his 90-day community service stint, he realizes that he must get to know the players. He discovers that many of them live together in a group home and have jobs and unique talents. The team’s best player refuses to play for him and shakes his head and says, “Nope,” each time he sees Marcus. That is a mystery and something that Marcus will come to understand over time.
Quite by coincidence, Marcus already knows Jonathan’s (Kevin Iannucci) older sister, Kaitlin Olson (Alex) and that relationship had not gotten off to a good start. He realizes that he has a lot of work to do. The team has to take public transportation to the games and at one point, the bus driver leaves them on the side of the road due to their several idiosyncrasies. Fortunately, Alex, also a Shakespearean actor has her own van and agrees to become their driver. The bonding and relationship-building begin during their road trips.
They even travel all the way from Iowa to Winnipeg, for the Special Olympic Games. The most hilarious member is Consentino (Madison Tevlin) who is a sassy, out-spoken girl that keeps the boys in line and makes them face their fears. She once retorted to a screaming coach, “I’m not deaf. I have Down’s Syndrome!”
At times, Champions is a feel good movie with a few drawbacks. It is rated PG-13 so some of the intimate scenes and the profanity could have been toned down or even eliminated for those young sensitive eyes and ears. It is based on a 2018 Spanish film called Campeones by Javier Fesserand David Marques, which also gives a voice to this special community. Ultimately, love conquers all and Marcus grows to become a more feeling coach as he sees his players as people with lives and personal stories!
March 21, 2023
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