Starring: Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, Kevin Iannucci, Ashton Gunning, Bradley Edens, Alex Hintz, James Day Keith, Casey Metcalfe, Matthew Von Der Ahe, Madison Tevlin, Joshua Felder, Ernie Hudson, Matt Cook, and Cheech Marin
Director: Bobby Farrelly
Champions is one of those movies I could write a complete synopsis on after its opening 15 minutes. It telegraphs every move as it attempts to balance between a cookie-cutter basketball movie and a cookie-cutter underdog story while succeeding at neither. It also greatly underuses its intellectually disabled characters (Madison Tevlin as Cosentino, especially) in favour of focusing on Woody Harrelson's Coach Marcus. Even his character, who gets the most screen time, has limited room for growth, which in turn, makes for a stale character arc. I admittedly wasn’t expecting much from Champions, yet it still managed to let me down.
Champions sees director Bobby Farrelly trying to replicate his brother's recent success, but he ultimately fails. I wasn’t expecting much, and in some ways, it lived up to what I expected. It’s vaguely offensive by using its cast of disabled characters as punchlines, it has a plot I predicted from the trailer, and it’s simply not funny. But I’m a sucker for a good feel-good story, and I was at least hoping I could get that, but nope. This movie is not only way too long for what it’s trying to be, it’s just a big misstep across the board.
While there are moments in Champions that made me chuckle, I’m not sure the film entirely succeeds at what it sets out to do…assuming it has any goals at all apart from exploiting its supporting ensemble for “awws” while rarely developing their characters. The whole movie plays every scene so safely that sitting through it is more boring than inspiring, and with a runtime that’s about 20-30 minutes too long, a lot of those scenes meander. These problems are compounded by a weak script with little in the way of character development and filled with jokes that almost never land.