By Mark Fields
Some movies are the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. We know exactly what to expect, and that’s fine with us … it makes us feel comfortable. One of those intentionally familiar film genres is the underdog sports movie, such as Hoosiers, The Mighty Ducks, The Bad News Bears, and many others. Now taking the court is the latest of these, Champions, the saga of Marcus (Woody Harrelson), a once-promising basketball coach whose temper and affinity for alcohol lands him in an entirely different court, a court of law. He’s given a chance for a suspended sentence if he does community service coaching a recreation center squad of players with cognitive impairments. Virtually anyone can plot out the rest of the movie, but Champions manages to find a few unpredictable moments along the way and does still deliver the comforting experiences we are seeking. Harrelson is appealing as Marcus, and Kaitlyn Olson, Cheech Marin, and Ernie Hudson provide solid support. Good also are the non-professional actors playing Marcus’ team. They do a terrific job of creating differentiated and endearing characters beyond the familiar beats of the story.
The net result is a winning, if not surprising, combination.