Champions (Sports, Comedy) [Based on Foreign Film] (2023)
Director: Bobby Farrelly
Writer: Mark Rizzo
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin , Matt Cook, Cheech Marin
Shortly after being fired due to bellicose behaviour during a Basketball game. A minor league Assistant Coach ends up in jail due to drunk driving. He’s sentenced to ninety days of community service, the task being coaching a team of mentally and physically challenged players.
As the American remake of the 2018 Spanish film of the same name, ‘’Champions,’’ attempts to recreate the narrative of a professional yet rude coach finding an understanding for those mentally and physically impaired. The film also serves as Bobby Farrelly’s first solo feature, having almost exclusively directed comedy movies with his brother Peter Farrelly in the past. It was filmed in Manitoba, Canada, produced by Gold Circle Entertainment and distributed by Focus Features and Universal Pictures.
Working as an Assistant Coach for a Basketball team in Iowa. Marcus Marakovich allows his temper to get the better of him, disagreeing with the Head Coach’s decisions, leading to an argument and physical altercation. That same evening, after having some beverages in a nearby bar and getting behind the wheel whilst intoxicated, he drives into a parked police vehicle, leading to his arrest. During his court hearing, the judge sentences him to ninety days of community service for a disabled team called ‘’The Friends’’, which he’s genuinely averse to at first.
Trying to capture the essence of Javier Fesser’s 2018 film, this 2023 take casts several individuals with genuine disabilities, some with acting experience or a paralympic background, while mostly making their feature film debuts. Unlike comedies of the past, which Farrelly had a large hand in, it aims to bring positive attention to those with developmental disorders.
In content, ‘’Champions’’ provides an evolution, as mentioned. Instead of laughing in direct response to a depiction of the impaired due to appearance or physical incapabilities, Farrelly’s remake is meant to deliver an uplifting underdog sports experience with honest messaging towards an all-too-common attitude within some of our society. It’s a rapidly moving, simple-to-understand sports comedy, laying the latter on rather thick.
Whereas the intention goes, I’d hope it is as positive as you’d assume. However, compared to the Spanish original, most that made that film good fall to the wayside. Several moments within are transferred one-to-one, while arguably more vital poignance are entirely removed. Creative additions cannot compare to the script by Fesser and Marqués, and there is doubt as to who the target audience should be here. The cinematography seems rushed and somewhat lazy, with odd decisions made in narrative progression just to move the plot along.
If someone would pitch me an underdog sports film, with Harrelson coaching a paralympic Basketball team, I’d probably think it’s a brilliant idea. Yet, going back to the original as I always try to, much of the context and meaning is lost in translation. That could be fine, but as the intent seems to be absent even more-so, there’s a line that shouldn’t have been crossed. I truly hope this is purely observational, but ‘’Champions’’ and the multitude of language remakes, with the exception of the original, which also has a sequel called ‘’ChampionX’’ on the way. Seems purely exploitative, which is not a sign we should be sending.
We are not the champions