At The Top

Stars: Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, Ernie Hudson, Cheech Marin, Mike Smith, Scott Van Pelt, Jalen Rose, Madison Tevlin, Kevin Iannucci, Ashton Gunning and Bradley Edens
Director: Bobby Farrelly
Scriptwriter: Mark Rizzo based on “Champions” by Javier Fesser and David Marques
Composer: Michael Franti
Cinematography: C. Kim Miles
Gold Circle Entertainment/Universal Pictures
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 124 Minutes

I am writing this at the time of the NFL Draft. The champions from all football teams choose the players they want for the next season of champions. In first-time Director Bobby Farrelly’s film’ “Champions,” the concern is not to be top of the list, but to simply be there – and hope to be part of the team. This film is adapted from the Spanish movie of the same title. Woody Harrelson stars as a bitter man with a temper, likes to drink and doesn’t have a future in any sport. Or so he thinks.  “Champions” is about playing in a sport for acceptance on who you are and to have fun at the same time. Let’s see what happens.  Watch for performances by Ernie Hudson and Cheech Marin.

Marcus Marakovich (Harrelson) is an assistant coach to a small basketball team in Iowa. His temper gets the best of him and he eventually runs into a police car. Phil (Ernie Hudson) makes bail for Marcus and then he has a choice in court, either over a year in jail or 90 days of community service. Well, service is better than jail, so he accepts and then finds out that his team (“The Friends”) is nowhere near professional level, they are “intellectually challenged.” From here on, there are humorous episodes and serious ones. Humor is Marcus dating Alex (Kaitlin Olson) and serious is trying to pull the team together with the help of Sonny (Matt Cook.)  Serious is seeing how challenged people are treated. There are small sub-stories, too, involving team members. Eventually, the team is a team and begin to win games much to everyone’s surprise except Marcus, his assistants and the team. The moments on the court are good.   

Woody Harrelson dives into the persona of a no-patience coach and you watch him evolve. Facial expressions are reflective and his opposites are Ernie Hudson and Matt Cook. Everyone has a lesson to learn and the brief moments with team members are well done. A team becomes more than a team and more of a family. 

Having this movie come out during basketball season is a good entry into the world of champions that stand on a dais with a trophy and champions who achieve by simply being there and able to hold a basketball in their hands. “Champions” may have you wanting to bounce a basketball in your driveway.

Copyright 2023 Marie Asner