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.


Mark Fields
Mark Fields has reviewed movies for Out & About since October 2008. In addition, he has written O&A profiles of documentarian Harry Shearer and actress Aubrey Plaza. Over the years, Mark also has written on film for several publications in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and his home state of Indiana, where he also served as on-air movie critic for Indianapolis’s public radio station. Mark was an adjunct instructor of film history at Rowan University from 1998 to 2018. A career arts administrator, he retired in fall 2021 after 16 years as an executive at Wilmington’s Grand Opera House. Mark now leads bike tours part-time and is working on a screenplay. He lives in Trolley Square with his partner Wendy. Mark spent the fastest 22 minutes of his life as an unsuccessful contestant on Jeopardy…sadly, there were no movie questions.