The Reel Review
A hot tempered, down-on-his-luck minor league basketball coach convicted of drunk driving learns an important lesson in winning at life when he is sentenced to community service coaching a team of Special Olympians in this sports dramedy starring Woody Harrelson. The film is a remake of the 2018 Spanish film Campeones, which itself is based on a true story.
Champions is a completely predictable, corny and formulaic comedy. But it also is a really sweet crowd-pleaser with lots of heart. Harrelson gets a nice assist from a winsome cast of intellectually disabled actors, with Kaitlin Olson (Hacks, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) a standout as the sister of one of his players and eventual romantic interest. Cheech Marin and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters) also co-star.
Despite the unoriginal story and some stale jokes, screenwriter Mark Rizzo does manage to steer the plot around sappy sentimentality in favor of more believable authenticity and humor. The feel-good film’s message, about the personal victories that make an individual a champion, is a winner. Bring tissues. Mission accomplished, Woody.
• Champions is the solo directorial debut for Bobby Farrelly, who with his brother Peter, is known for the comedies Dumb and Dumber, 2001’s Shallow Hal and 1998’s There’s Something About Mary.
• In 2022, Kaitlin Olson received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as DJ on HBO’s Hacks.
• Woody Harrelson and Ernie Hudson previously appeared in 1994’s The Cowboy Way.