- Written by Randal C. Hill Randal C. Hill
In 1992, Woody Harrelson co-starred with Wesley Snipes in the basketball movie White Men Can’t Jump. While some found the title offensive, the film itself about two hotshot streetball hustlers sold tons of tickets at the box office.
Now, three decades later, Harrelson again immerses himself in the world of basketball, this time as a coach, not a player.
Champions is the Americanized version of the well-received 2018 Spanish basketball movie Campeones, the true story of a group of challenged kids who earn 12 Special Olympics championships over a span of 15 years.
In our Champions, Harrelson portrays Marcus Aldridge, a bumbling, hot-tempered minor league coach who gets fired, gets drunk, and gets into an accident with a police car. He is ordered by the court to perform community service — in this case, to coach a basketball team of eight boys with special needs.
He quickly becomes discouraged.
“It’s impossible to coach these guys,” he grumbles out of frustration.
But he is told, “You don’t have to turn them into the Lakers — they just need to feel like a team.”
Aldridge eventually realizes that if he can do well with this group, perhaps he can one day return to coaching a “regular” team and possibly even fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming an NBA coach.
Along the way, Aldridge also becomes aware that he is actually bonding with these boys, and he seriously sets to work encouraging them to do well enough to become part of the Special Olympics playoffs.
He comes to acknowledge that he may be able to take the team further than he or they ever imagined. And while the boys play their hearts out, they continue to struggle.
Then, one day, a ninth member of the team comes aboard, a girl named Tina. Stocky of build and snarky of attitude, she sneers at Aldridge and asks the team members, “Where did you get this guy?”
“He just showed up one day,” comes the answer from one of the lads.
Kaitlin Olson (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) plays Alex, Aldridge’s love interest. Ernie Hudson from the Ghostbusters franchise and Cheech Marin of the Cheech and Chong duo round out the solid supporting cast.
Bobby Farrelly and his brother Peter are renowned for such quirky blockbusters as There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber. Now Farrelly is working solo with Champions in his directorial debut. Mark Rizzo, creator of various projects from Disney, Focus, and Fox Family, has written the compassionate script.
The heartwarming Champions opens nationwide in theaters on March 24.
Randal C. Hill enjoys getting sneak peeks of forthcoming movies from his home on the Oregon coast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.