Experience the victory of compassion in “Champions”
Published 11:25 am Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Taking the court this week at Tryon Theatre is “Champions,” an endearing comedy from the experienced hands of director Bobby Farrelly, whose comedic sensibilities defined the mid to late 90s (ex. “There’s Something About Mary” – 1998). “Champions” is thoroughly sweet, often silly, and frequently funny, providing for a charming and uplifting experience.
The film’s narrative beats are familiar and offer no surprises in their development, but the characters inhabiting the narrative are more than sufficient in both the heart and entertainment they provide.
Woody Harrelson leads the film with his talent for playing an affable jerk taking center stage. His character of Marcus is deserving of criticism, with an ego that begs to be checked, and the supporting cast revel in opportunities to do so, providing many of the film’s laughs at Marcus’s earned expense.
The film’s plot opens on Marcus, a minor league basketball coach, who, through a series of emotionally unchecked personal choices, ends up being court ordered to the community service of coaching a basketball team for the learning disabled, The Friends. Marcus naturally begrudges trading a professional court for a community center, and makes his dissatisfaction no secret to his new team. However, to his surprise, this team makes their feelings about this unproven interloper no less a secret, and Marcus soon finds himself more challenged than he anticipated, both professionally and emotionally.
In simultaneously following the personal growth of a curmudgeon and the shared efforts of an underdog team, “Champions” taps into a tried and tested formula for cinematic success. Like many underdog stories of athletic teams before them, The Friends’ attempts for glory are intrinsically rewarding, not for the question of their potential success, but for the victory in the effort itself. Moreover, the value in getting to know this team lies not in their win/loss record, but in the personal triumphs of the individual players, both on and off the court.
“Champions” successfully uses the vehicle of a team’s performance for telling endearing stories of emotional growth, but also utilizes the format to pose rewarding questions of how we define and achieve success.
In directing the comedy of “Champions” a careful touch is applied to laugh with the team’s limitations, not at them, and to punch up with the jokes, rather than down, the majority of said punches landing on Harrelson’s jaw, as his character takes the brunt of the film’s bite.
Additionally, the film is meritable in its balance of comedy and drama, making ample room for each on the court, and allowing for the film’s deeper moments to not get lost in the shuffle of the laughter.
“Champions” certainly won’t challenge any viewers, nor will it break the mold cinematically, but it has guaranteed value for any filmgoer looking to laugh, and leave the theatre feeling better than they entered it. While it often should, not all art has to provoke great emotion or inspire new ideas, sometimes it only needs to provide comfort, warmth, and cheer. “Champions” provides such qualities in great measure, the enjoyment of which we hope to share with you soon!