By Matt Pascarella
Runtime: 2 hours, 4 minutes
Marcus Marakovich is an assistant coach for the collegiate basketball Iowa Stallions. He has an incident where he pushes the head coach. He’s thrown off the team and spends a night in jail after driving drunk. The judge then imposes a sentence of 90 days of community service at a local recreation center where he will coach a team of individuals with developmental disabilities.
“Champions” stars Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, Ernie Hudson, Matt Cook, Madison Tevlin, Joshua Felder, Kevin Iannucci, Ashton Gunning, Matthew Von Der Ahe, Tom Sinclair, James Day Keith, Alex Hintz, Casey Metcalfe, Bradley Edens and Cheech Marin.
Following an incident where Iowa Stallions coach Marcus Marakovich (Harrelson) pushes head coach Peretti (Hudson), Marcus hits a police car while driving drunk. After spending a night in jail, he is offered a deal by the judge instead of more jail time – 90 days coaching a recreational basketball team of adults with developmental disabilities. Marcus is not thrilled about this but accepts.
Coach Perretti tells Marcus he knows the game but needs to cultivate relationships. The recreational team is a good place to start.
When he meets the team, most of them are open to him, except Darius (Felder). Johnny (Iannucci) takes a liking to him and as it turns out, Marcus has already met Johnny’s sister, Alex (Olson).
Recreation Manager Julio (Marin) tells Marcus the team doesn’t have to be the Lakers, but they need to feel like a team.
Marcus finds out the previous coach quit partway through the season and it devastated the team.
The more time Marcus spends with the team, the more he realizes they are more capable than he originally thought. Despite this, he’s not the most encouraging to his players during games.
Over time, he begins to bond and connect with them. One such moment is when he convinces Johnny, who is afraid of water, to take a shower.
The team wants to make it to Regionals, so they cannot afford any forfeits.
When a pipe bursts in the gym, Marcus takes the practice outside to a local court where they challenge a group of players after being referred to in a derogatory way.
When Marcus’ 90 days are up, he stays with the team. They are one win away from the Regional Tournament. Marcus also has an offer from the NBA he plans to accept.
After Marcus talks to Darius, he agrees to play for them.
However, they don’t have the money needed to travel to the tournament. Marcus and Alex have an idea.
This is a funny, charming, awkward, emotional feel-good movie. It has a great message about teammates playing for each other and not to discount or overlook someone just because they have a disability. It has mild language and sexual situations, watch out for the sprained finger scene toward the end. “Champions” can be defined in many ways, not just by winning it all. This one is worth a stream.
Two thumbs up.
Available on Amazon Prime and to rent. <