Throughout cinema, people have always rooted for the underdogs. Especially in sports films. We love seeing a ragtag team of misfits succeed against impossible odds. And, even if they don’t win, we love to see a ragtag team of misfits come together as a team, and as a team, they learn about the power of teamwork. Throw in a curmudgeon coach, and you are onto a winner.

With this in mind, the latest Farrelly brother venture Champions should’ve succeeded. It has a group of misfits, it has a grumpy man coaching them, and it has a sport.

Well, what usually would’ve ticked all boxes becomes a dry, tired, trope-filled movie that as an added bonus, is super exploitative as well.

Directed by Bobby Farrally, Champions revolves around basketball coach Marcus, who has a surly aggressive management style that sees him relegated to assistant coach in the minor leagues. After being ejected and fired for pushes his coach during a game, Marcus is arrested for drunk-driving and sentenced to community service. His “punishment?” He must coach a local team called The Friends whose players all are young people with learning disabilities. Can Marcus change his ways, and what will he learn from the friends?


There is a really hilarious moment in this film where a reporter asks Marcus whether his work for his friends is being used and exploited by another team. In response, Marcus chews out the reporter for even dare asking the question. It feels very pointed – as though the script writers and the director were so concerned that there might be blow-back that they are already shooting down anyone who dare deem this a manipulation.

“Are we in the wrong for making this movie? No,” the film says reminiscent of that Seymour Skinner meme, “it’s the journalists who are wrong.”

No. The film is wrong. This is a movie where the sex and personal lives of people with disabilities are openly mocked. In one scene, played for clear laughs, one of the Friends speaks openly about having a threesome. The joke jostles audience to giggle at the idea that any one of the Friends could have a rigorous relations with anyone.

Though there are admirable performances here, Kaitlyn Olsen and Ernie Hudson offer great support whilst newcomers Joshua Felder, Madison Tevlin, and Kevin Inanncui are excellent, but Champions cannot shake the weight of its faults. Woody Harrelson, whose character openly uses the R-word in the beginning of the film and doesn’t seem to truly earn his redemptive arc, is fine.

Champions is not the slam-dunk it thinks it is, and ultimately it does a disservice to the people it wants to champion.