© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

U.S.A. 2023

Opening 27 Apr 2023

Directed by: Bobby Farrelly
Writing credits: Mark Rizzo, Javier Fesser, David Marqués
Principal actors: Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, Matt Cook, Ernie Hudson, Cheech Marin

Marcus Markovitch (Woody Harrelson) is coach of the Iowa Stallions basketball team, based in Des Moines, Iowa. Due to an unfortunate lack of self-control, he lands in court where Judge Mary Menendez (Alexandra Castillo) sentences him to three months of community service. Suitable to his sport experiences, he finds himself coaching “Friends,” a minor league team of mentally disabled players. Markovitch struggles in this new environment; his boss Phil (Ernie Hudson) tells him to “learn to build relationships” starting with knowing each player’s name: Johnny, Darius, Cody, Blair, Arthur, Craig, Benny and Marion. Soon a girl, Consentino (Madison Tevln), joins the team, which aims for the Special Olympics World Games in Winnipeg, Canada. Marcus has higher expectations, e.g., coaching for the National Basketball Association (NBA) in Seattle, but soon becomes intensely involved with his new “retards.” He also becomes involved with Johnny’s sister Alex (Kaitlin Olson), whom he recognizes from a previous one-night stand. She transports them to the games and then off to Winnipeg to “show those guys what champions are made of.”

Champions is based on Camperones (Wir sind Champions), a 2018 Spanish version which was directed by Javier Fesser and written by David Marqués. The excellent actors on the basketball team have intellectual disabilities such as Down Syndrome in real life. In this fun comedy we learn about bounce pass, chest pass, pick and roll, etc., supported by 39 (!) songs. Champions is director Farrelly’s first solo film, after directing several films with his brother Peter. The Special Olympics World Games is similar to the Paralympic Games. They occur every two years in winter or summer, the next event to take place in Berlin, July 16-25, 2023, hosted by Germany for the first time. (Becky Tan)

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