Champions (Blu-ray)

A former minor-league basketball coach is ordered by the court to manage a team of players with intellectual disabilities. He soon realizes that despite his doubts, together, this team can go further than they ever imagined.

May 3, 2023 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

Champions takes that all-too-familiar sports genre and adds a unique twist to it. Many of the cast are people with special needs. A remake of a Spanish film of the same name, that I never saw. I suppose Director Bobby Farrelly (known for hits such as Kingpin, Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something about Mary), to name a few, saw something special in it to want to direct it. Ultimately, it isn’t really a film that I was anxious to see but is at least kind in its treatment of the cast members and has its heart in the right place. Will it be something I need to return to? Nope, but if you’re not opposed to the idea entirely then you could probably do worse.

Marcus Marakovich (Woody Harrelson) is an assistant coach who’s good at his job but has a hot temper. This gets him into trouble when  he has an altercation with the head coach and then leaves the stadium drunk and hits a police car on his way home. Marcus is bailed out, but at the hearing, the judge gives him a choice of 18 months in prison or 90 days community service for people with learning disabilities. We all know what choice he’ll make. I won’t go through the list of players, but we get the obligatory introductions to the basketball team and each of them have their own unique personality. There’s some poking fun at the Harrelson character, and he shows he’s a true sport. With a lesser actor in the lead, the mileage might’ve not gone as far. The rest of the cast are talented enough that it never feels false. This all leads to the big game where there’s the obligatory big speech about them being champions.

While I can appreciate what they wanted to do here, too much of it just feels familiar. There’s the teammate who walks away only to return to the court some time later, there’s the romantic angle with Alex (Kaitlin Olson) and a lot of scenes on and off the court of the players and their interactions with one another. It’s all harmless stuff, but nothing here, outside of using actors with disabilities truly stands out. The film also gets a bit long in the tooth at 2 hours. With a leaner running time, it would’ve propelled the plot forward more than it does. I was never bored, but some stuff could’ve been left out. All in all, it does what it sets out to do with decent results.

Video: How’s it look?

While not 4K, we still get a very good 2.39:1 AVC HD transfer. That is wider than most comedies, but whatever the reason, the film still looked nice. Expect my usual remarks here as there’s nothing distracting, nor should there be for a new film like this. Details and colors are accurate and smooth and really nothing negative I can think of.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The DTS HD track has the appropriate presence for a film of this sort. Vocals are fine and clear and the basketball scenes carry the weight they should. The crowds and beating on the court bring us into the action. Like the transfer, the track satisfies.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Deleted Scenes – A dozen total that run nearly 20 minutes. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of substance to these and with the film already over two hours, these were cut for time.
  • Keeping it Friendly – Director Bobby Farrelly, Woody Harrelson, and the rest of the cast share how they became involved, as well as the importance of representation in the film.
  • Woody and the Team – Every team needs a good leader – here we explore how Woody Harrelson filled that role on and off screen.
  • Casting the Friends – Essentially that. Nothing more than some promotional fluff, but a nice feature to have nonetheless.
  • Audio Commentary – Director Bobby Farrelly gives a pretty decent track that I found pretty engaging. It’s easy to dismiss the Farrelly’s (either of them) given their past credits, but how they approached this one is pretty heartfelt. It’s a good track and fans of the film should enjoy it.

The Bottom Line

This one is kind of hard for me. I have seen better and worse sports films. The cast is fine and the heart is there, but the characters don’t register here as much as they probably should. It’s certainly not a film for everyone. That isn’t to sound harsh, it’s just not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe give it a rent before any further decisions are made.

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