Movie Review: Champions

I have seen a number of coaching basketball movies in the last few years where the coach gets into trouble, loses his job, and then gets drunk. The best one of these is the Ben Affleck film, “The Way Back”, released in March 2020, right before the United States declared the Pandemic a national emergency. The difference between The Way Back and the new movie “Champions” is that this movie is much more of a comedy than a serious drama.

The message here is a good one. A down-and-out coach in the NBA J-league Marcus, played by Woody Harrelson has an argument with the head coach and is fired, then he gets drunk and hits a police car. What follows is 90 days of community service coaching a basketball team comprised of mentally challenged teenagers. Over time Marcus mutates from someone who hates his new job to someone who wants to help a group of kids who need all the help they can get. We have all seen movies like this before, but this one is done well enough to recommend.

I also thought that most of the basketball scenes were well done, including one player who could never shoot the ball unless his back was to the basket and shoots without looking. This running joke I also thought had a funny yet predictable resolution at the end of this movie.

The love interest for Marcus is Alex, played by Kaitlin Olson, who is the mother of one of the mentally challenged teenagers. Her life of poverty and borderline desperation is very well portrayed within this mostly comedic but at times dramatic story. An actress with down-syndrome Madison Tevlin who plays Cosentino, just about steals this entire movie with some of her scenes. She is amazingly high functioning for someone with down syndrome.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Champions is a stupidly low 53%, with my rating a solid 75%. This is a good family movie with a good message about what is really important.