When I hear the phrase “The Farrelly Brothers,” I think about movies that made me laugh so hard I cried – “There’s Something About Mary” in particular.
Bobby Farrelly now has made his solo directorial debut in “Champions.” Set in Iowa, it takes a more heartwarming approach but still includes plenty of humor.
Woody Harrselon stars as Marcus, a hard-drinking assistant coach for the Iowa Stallions. When Marcus ends up with a DUI conviction, the judge assigns him community service: He is to coach the Friends basketball team that includes players with intellectual disabilities.
Marcus has no idea how to connect with his players. But he gradually begins to respect each player, and truly become their leader, as he continues his community service. Cheech Marin plays the director of the recreation center who thinks Marcus can learn to think beyond himself and truly care for the athletes. “They just need to feel like a team,” he tells Marcus.
Kaitlin Olson is wonderful as the romantic interest for Marcus. Her character is enjoyable because she has such an intelligent edge and is able to put Marcus in his place.
This is a likeable comedy, with good performances all the way around. The movie is based on “Campeones,” a 2018 Spanish films that’s based on the true study of the Aderes basketball team (an internet search will be worth your time if you’re interested.)
The newcomers who play the team members are so good they steal scenes from the seasoned Harrelson. Also, Ernie Hudson’s small role is a delight.
To maintain high energy and positivity, Farrelly wisely sprinkles perfectly timed tunes throughout, from Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” (it remained stuck in my head for days after I saw the film) to the equally recognizable Rupert Holmes “Escape (The Piña Colada Song.”
The rousing music, some surprises – delivered mostly by the athletes – and clever dialogue make this movie a joy to watch. You’ll be rooting for every character all the way through.
Running time: Two hours and four minutes.
Rated: PG-13 for foul language and sexual references.
At Cinemark, Davenport; Regal, Moline; and Palms 10, Muscatine.
Watch the trailer here.