They are the Champions (CREDIT: Shauna Townley/Focus Features)

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, Ernie Hudson, Cheech Marin, Matt Cook, Madison Tevlin, Joshua Felder, Kevin Iannucci, Ashton Gunning, Matthew Von Der Ahe, Tom Sinclair, James Day Keith, Alex Hintz, Casey Metcalfe, Bradley Edens, Champ Pederson

Director: Bobby Farrelly

Running Time: 123 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Mild Farrelly-Style Crude Humor

Release Date: March 10, 2023 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: You know, coaching basketball is a very stressful job. Emotions run high in any sport, and this one has the added disadvantage of all that body heat being trapped inside a stadium. So it’s no wonder that there have been multiple movies and TV shows (as well as real-life examples) of basketball coaches spectacularly falling from grace. The latest example of this trope is Champions, a remake of a 2018 Spanish film of the same name (or Campeones in its native tongue), in which Woody Harrelson plays Marcus, a minor league coach who has dreams of breaking into the NBA. Instead, a night of drunk driving leads him to spending most of his time fulfilling his community service duties in the hinterlands of Iowa by leading a local amateur team made up of players with intellectual disabilities.

What Made an Impression?: Sports movies that focus on team efforts rise (or sink) by the strength (or weakness) of their personalities. And the guys on the roster of Champions might have Down syndrome or traumatic brain injuries or other related conditions, but that hardly means they won’t leave an impression on the people around them. Marcus is a little ignorant about them initially, but he’s won over quickly. This is obviously a movie about the triumph of the human spirit, but it doesn’t underline that point egregiously. Instead of wasting time on Marcus constantly saying the wrong thing, he mostly just bonds with his players over a shared love of the game. Still, it’s certainly an adjustment for a guy with NBA aspirations, but witnessing him figuring it out and embracing it is the whole attraction.

Anyway, if you’re an aficionado of the genre, or even if you have just a passing awareness of sports movies, you can probably see where this is all headed. The team improbably makes their way to the championship, the coach is tempted by greener pastures in another town far far away, and there might just be someone who’s captured his heart for good measure (in this case, she’s played by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Kaitlin Olson). Champions has no intention of reinventing the formula; instead, its purpose is all about giving some new players the opportunity to have their own Rudy/Rocky/Jimmy Chitwood moment. If you’re looking for that sort of wholesome entertainment, with a generous helping of potty humor thrown in for good measure, then Champions has you covered. And if your curiosity is also piqued by SportsCenter spending an inordinate amount of time covering the saga of Special Olympians, with actual ESPN personalities playing themselves, then you’re in luck once again!

Champions is Recommended If You Like: The usual suspects when it comes to inspirational triumphs of the human spirit

Grade: 3 out of 5 Double Dribbles