Thursday, December 7, 2023
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Champions Review

It took some time, but Bobby Farrelly, having watched his brother win an Academy Award, proves he was the weak glue latching onto some questionable winnings. His career is a spotty collection of out-of-date comedies and an association with the awards darling that rang the bell of controversy at the time and subsequently became a vague memory. Champions must now choose that path for Bobby. A long and winding road, but not the delightful type Paul McCartney offers up on Let It Be. Despite stacking the cast full of legendary comedians Cheech Marin, Kaitlin Olsen and bringing Woody Harrelson in to lead the charge, Champions feels well past its expiry date. This is a feature that would have felt dated at the time of Hall Pass releasing, another Farrelly classic.  

Without the guidance and partnership of Peter Farrelly, it would appear Bobby is struggling. Still, so too is his brother if The Greatest Beer Run Ever is any evidence of their fumblings. Two hours of Harrelson playing a minor league basketball coach forced to train with a team he thinks nothing of. Yet that same team is the Special Olympics squad and much of the humour treads a careful line between popping jokes at the situation Marcus Marakovich (Harrelson) finds himself in, and the people he is surrounded by. Amazingly enough, those tepid strokes of comedy and their attachment to anger issues and court-based drama told through ESPN commentaries, is not as strong as it was a decade ago. American comedy has thankfully moved on from the Judd Apatow and Farrelly duo era, but there are still remnants of it thriving like a parasite.  

Two hours of lingering and primitive commentaries on basketball and the game some are so passionate for. But Champions cannot decide on whether it wants to focus its division of people and players or if it wants its generic, broken soul lead to picking up the pieces. Either way, it is predictable and the early scenes are relied on as late-stage game changers as they are repeated out. Actions of those on their way up are repeated by those they were at odds with way back when. Nobody stands out as all that interesting, all that charming. There are big names here and they are shuffled around as and when a plot device is in need of some new life. Champions pumps very little through it and comes out with an idle selection of unflinchingly dull jokes.  

Beyond what Champions does and how well it manages to produce a representation, it is still a boring comedy. No amount of wiggle room for justifiable casting and Harrelson-leading the charge can change that. Basketball and the intensity of the big game lend itself to feature films time and time again but Champions is filled with empty, record-scratch moments. Bottling up that intensity into bitesize chunks, hoping the likes of Matt Cook are the next steps for comedy, Farrelly finds himself fumbling a feature that could have joined up its touching moments with the usual basketball gags. It manages to miss out on that yet still has those latter moments, which take away the focus from what could have been a solid story of rekindling a passion for the game with those marginalised by it.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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