‘Champions’ Funny Team of Great Individuals

Woody Harrelson in CHAMPIONS from Focus Features

What began in 1968 allowed individuals with intellectual disabilities to have the chance to play athletics and be a part of the greatest sporting event on earth, the Olympics. One of the most popular and favorite sports in the Special Olympics is basketball. To these extraordinary players they learn a lot about sportsmanship, friendship, and also have lots of fun.

When Marcus (Woody Harrelson) is kicked out of professional basketball for pushing head coach Phil Perretti (Ernie Hudson) and gets arrested for DWI he is assigned by the judge to coach a Special Olympics team called the friends. This group of special needs players who play basketball at the local church are unorganized and not ready to compete against the rest of the teams.

When Marcus finally arrives to meet the Friends, a bunch of fun loving characters like, Johnny (Kevin Lannucci), Darius (Joshua Felder), Cody (Ashton Gunning), Cosentino (Madison Tevlin), Craig (Matthew Von Der Ahe), Blair (Tom Sinclair), Benny (James Day Keith), Arthur (Alex Hintz), Marlon (Casey Metcalfe), and Showtime (Bradley Edens), he realized these guys need a lot of help and instruction to finally win a game. With help from program director, Julio (Cheech Marin), assistant coach and friend Sonny (Matt Cook), and new found friend Alex (Kaitlin Olson), he finds that these new found team members will win his heart.

(L to R) Actors James Day Keith, Tom Sinclair, Kevin Iannucci, Matthew von der Ahe, Ashton Gunning, Casey Metcalfe, Bradley Edens, Alex Hintz, Joshua Felder, and director Bobby Farrelly on the set of CHAMPIONS, a Focus Features release. Credit : Shauna Townley/Focus Features

Director Bobby Farrelly puts together a hilarious entertaining story that has these joyful affectionate characters go from rags to riches. Farrelly ties in a great storyline with the challenges these citizens with special needs endure everyday. He places everyone in a great setting that makes the events believable and develops a heartwarming celebration for these loveable and upbeat citizens. The performance and great personalities by the cast was outstanding and brought this narrative to life. 

This fun loving film brings fun and entertaining characters to life along with a tale that includes an event that challenges our new heroes. Showing what trials and tribulations they all endure will bring you on a rollercoaster ride of pure fun.

Final Comment: I based my grade on a spectacular performance by the cast and a fantastic storyline.

(L to R) Casey Metcalfe as Marlon, James Day Keith as Benny, Woody Harrelson as Marcus, Ashton Gunning as Cody, and Tom Sinclair as Blair in director Bobby Farrelly’s CHAMPIONS, a Focus Features release. Credit : Courtesy of Focus Features

Stars 4 out of 5 

Additional Film Information

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Cheech Marin, Matt Cook, Kaitlin Olson, Kevin Lannucci, Joshua Felder, Ashton Gunning, Madison Tevlin, Matthew Von Der Ahe, Tom Sinclair, James Day Keith, Alex Hint, Casey Metcalfe, Bradley Edens, and Ernie Hudson.
Directed by: Bobby Farrelly
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Sport, 
MPAA Rating: Rated PG – 13 for strong language and crude/sexual reference
Running Time: 2 hours and 3 minutes.
Release Date:  March 10, 2023
Distributed By: Focus Features
Release In: Digital, and Standard.