Marcus (Woody Harrelson) is an assistant basketball coach in the G-league with aspirations to work in the NBA, but his short fuse and prior deeds have damaged his image. Marcus receives a court order to perform community service coaching a basketball team for people with intellectual disabilities after a drunk driving accident puts him in legal jeopardy. Marcus initially doesn't take it seriously, but as he gets to know the members of the basketball team, affectionately known as "The Friends," and trains them to compete in the Special Olympics, he begins to warm up to the notion.
Champions' straightforward idea works because it is clear what kind of movie it is trying to be. It's a sportsmovie about teamwork that makes you feel wonderful. Marcus' dream may be to play in the NBA, but Champions serves as a reminder of the good one can do in their local neighbourhood. The ties formed in this particular setting are special and endearing, and the work is crucial. Although being well-known, Marcus finds joy working with The Friends that he never would have found in the NBA. Champions recognises that there are times when smaller is better, and Rizzo's script is filled with heart in response.
The entire cast improves the movie. The Friends' happier and more positive attitude on life contrasts wonderfully with Harrelson's bitter, displeased demeanour as Marcus. Kevin Iannucci as johnny and Madison Tevlin as Consentino, who is a formidable character, stand out among The Friends. Champions make the rest of the squad shine more brilliantly because of their participation. The Friends' individual experiences aren't wholly ignored in favour of focusing on Marcus, who actually wouldn't be anything without them, although Marcus may pick up a few things from them.
Champions takes a while to get going, and at just over two hours, it may have been cut a little to make the plot more concise. Marcus' origin tale might have been switched out at the beginning to give The Friends and their backstories more time on screen. This would have given the remaining characters greater nuance, further developing them and the many dynamics they interact with. That said, the poor start doesn't fully derail Champions. Once it begins to move, it keeps going while allowing its vivacious vitality to bring it to completion. Despite the occasionally flat comedic timing, there is enough charisma even when the humour doesn't always land.
Champions is a cheery, heartwarming sports film that successfully achieves its goal.
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