Based on a Spanish film of the same name, writer Mark Rizzo and director Bobby Farelly have adapted the movie for American/English-speaking audiences. Now, I usually have previously watched the source movie. Still, in this case, I have never seen Campeones, which has earned some critical acclaim and achieved enough praise for Spain to select it as their submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Academy Awards. As far as this American interpretation is concerned, I found this particular movie somewhat predictable and not inspiring. I even found the cast’s performances dull and uninspired, except for the actors with intellectual disabilities. Champions is another weak attempt by American movie producers to capture the same excitement and adoration previously attained by what should be a superior movie.
Woody Harrelson portrays Marcus, a headstrong and petulant basketball coach in America. After getting fired from his job as a supporting coach of a minor league team and being arrested for driving while intoxicated, Marcus reluctantly accepts probation while doing community service on a group of basketball players with intellectual disabilities. Initially, Marcus feels frustrated with his current situation and the challenges that come with coaching players with special needs. Eventually, he finds his groove and establishes a rapport with his team, but he also longs to resume his career as a professional coach.
While this film has some charming elements, characters, and a moderately compelling story, Champions doesn’t hit the right notes when offering a truly moving impact. The whole affair is very transparent and obvious. And even though the movie does have its moments, it left me feeling rather lukewarm, where I should be feeling heartwarming vibes. Everything that happens mostly fails to surprise or grab me by the heart. I can see what the filmmakers attempt to pull off, but something else is needed to work on a deep level.
Most of the cast members who don’t have disabilities perform adequately but never really take this material to heart. Woody Harrelson is suitable as a selfish character, but his transition to someone more giving and caring feels very forced. I was impressed with the performance of Kaitlyn Olson, who comes across as invested in the material. She is the movie’s most genuine actor and is putting much heart into her turn as Alex, the sister of one of Marcus’ team players.
As far as the cast members, who have intellectual disabilities, are concerned, I applaud them for performing with much conviction. I wish that they had been cast in a much better film. That is not to say that Champions is a horrible movie. However, the filmmakers and their cast did a half-hearted job of presenting this story.