My dad’s interest in feel-good films led me to take him to the movies again and similar to A Man Called Otto, “Champions” is another predictable movie that has its heart in the right place but ranges between passable and uncomfortable a few times.
Bobby Farrelly is aware of how retrograde the project he’s apart of is but as someone who’s made room for projects that center around differences and disabilities, it’s right up his ballpark for his first directorial outing. Nothing really stands out with his vision but it gets the job done. Every crevice of the cinematography is simplistic and straightforward with basic wide shots and close ups and the editing matches that same energy: doesn’t try to be fancy and it gets the job done regardless. Production design is used accordingly, I found the costumes to be decently implemented to how the story progressed (but maybe that’s just me), the pacing is never too rushed but doesn’t drag itself out for an eternity either, each character is given a separate arc, which all pays off as well as you think and the acting is fairly decent; nobody feels as if they’re phoning it in just to get it over with.
From a bystanders point of view, this looks fine.
Making movies about people that are generally misunderstood can be difficult in the best and worst of times, so having the film be centered around a bunch of mentally challenged basketball players was a fine line to tread; one little slip and its good message can be lost or maligned. To be fair, this is another one of those ‘Coaching a misfit bunch of sportsmen’ plotlines we’ve seen bunches by this point and to its credit, they waste no time getting to the point. It runs on rails with no real surprises but from what it does, it does fine.
As passable as the film’s story is, the underlying crux that’s supposed to hold it up comes back to bite it constantly. I couldn’t help but take notice of how the disabled characters don’t really have much of a purpose behind changing Marcus for the ‘better’ and acting as the mascots for the movie itself. Maybe this is me stretching for something that isn’t in reach but you could’ve gotten me to care more about this team. Disabled actors in disabled roles is a rare commodity in Hollywood and they should be treated better than just being props for other people; this is the kind of shit I keep giving Sia’s film Music for. Sure, it allows the disabled actors to portray silly caricatures of themselves (which is technically a step up) but it’s still caricatures. The film constantly indulges in stereotypes and tries to combat them at every turn but it hardly feels as if the film itself cares much about them either.
Never mind the pithy one-liners, dated comedy, the generic musical score (yes, even more generic than this movie was already), and an odd number of conveniences that had me scratching my head.
I mean, it’s…..it’s better than most films that treat disabled people as a joke but is that really something to celebrate?