By: Russ Matthews

Bobby Farrelly is best known for partnering with his brother, Peter, on many iconic, albeit borderline offensive comedies, like Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal, and There’s Something About Mary.

Then Peter decided to try directing independently and found success without his brother. He went on to win an Academy Award for Green Book in 2018. While Bobby waited for the right project to compliment his unique talents for his solo directorial debut, he decided the film would be a remake of a Spanish movie called Champions.

Based on the real-life basketball team of intellectually disabled players whose goal is to go onto the championship at the Special Olympics. They fumbled along in the local community centre in Iowa until they were given a minor-league basketball coach who had to fulfil a community service order after a drunk and disorderly incident. Marcus (Woody Harrelson) is still trying to figure out what to do with his team until he sees their potential and realises their love for the game. Each player offers something to the team, and they begin to win once he gets them organised. Yet, his goal is to get back to coaching a professional team even though he begins to fall for one of the player’s sisters and draws closer to the team.

Early in the film, it is evident that this will not be a stock-standard heartfelt comedy. Instead, this story would contain some of Farrelly’s trademark objectionable style. The story of Champions is endearing and inspiring, primarily because they utilise intellectually-challenged actors to portray the players. Still, what moves this into a Farrelly production is showing that these basketball players are young adults with mature priorities, which usually involve sexual discussions that make this film more for mature audiences. Beyond these bathroom comedic moments, the rest of the story does have something unique to offer.

This sporting redemption tale offers an optimistic view of the value of those individuals in society with disabilities. The screenplay not only shows that many have athletic gifts, but they also can contribute through work and community activities. Despite some of the mature content, the story treats these characters respectfully. It shows how they represent a valuable part of humanity. Along with the players’ roles, we can see how vital the role is of those who serve in various capacities as coaches, teachers, and family members of these unique individuals.

Champions may cause some to be offended by the actions and language of some characters. Still, they may need to catch up on the heart of what the story is trying to convey. For those looking for a raw, humorous, and inspiring look into the lives of Special Olympic athletes, this might be the very film we are all looking forward to seeing.

REEL DIALOGUE: Responding to Disability

Even with modern educational advancements, people still have difficulty responding to learning disabilities. From the severe to the less noticeable, such as dyslexia, people still struggle to know how to respond to these realities of life.

These challenges are not new to society; throughout the Bible, there are references to individuals that struggle with these internal challenges. Moses was potentially one of the most noted to have a speech impediment. The realities portrayed in the Bible help to show that the answers can be found in the words of Jesus. God can help through the journey, and know that seeking help is better than struggling alone.

Passages on seeking help: Psalm 107:28-30, Matthew 7:7, John 14:13-14


Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

All images: Movie Publicity

About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.