White Men Can Learn To Care

17th Dallas International Film Festival

By Daniel R. Durrett

Important stories aren’t always mainstream, such as the Woody Harrelson film Champions. The story of a disgraced professional basketball coach, tasked to coach a handicapped basketball team for the Special Olympics. Champions could be your typical redemption movie but through the direction of one of the Farrelly brothers, nothing will be typical.

I commend Bobby Farrelly (There’s Something About Mary, The Ringer) for his use of adults with mental and physical challenges in the casting of the stories he chooses to tell. Much of the cast has down syndrome providing a dash of realism to the story being told.

Given his basketball past Woody Harrelson (True Detective, The People Vs Larry Flynt)

A story that allows for an adult conversation and possibly a lesson for those who do not deal with those individuals with disabilities in their normal life to view a story through a different lens.

Though Fun, Champions is telling a cleaner story of inclusion. The current political messages of inclusion and fighting exclusivity within society.

Kaitlin Olsen (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Vacation) Is a charming character but in many ways, she is playing a calmer Dee Reynolds from “It’s Always Sunny”. However, she did bring depth to the story with her connection to the team and the real-life consequences that can come from the comingling of personal and private parts of a character’s life

An actor who never gets the credit he should in every film he is in is Cheech Marin (Tin Cup, From Dusk Till Dawn), he should have had the best-supporting nominations for his portrayal of the caddie Romeo in “Tin Cup”.

Coach Phil Perretti portrayed by Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, The Crow) is a strong mentor and friend of Harrelson’s Marcus. But, it was the growth Harrelson’s character needed to provide a real plot to the story and in many ways every sports movie.

Coach Marcus grows as a character through his interaction with the players who all have many facets of adult disabilities, each of their disabilities expresses their unique challenge to the game of basketball. The team must connect as a team and coach Marcus has to find a way to connect with players who are significantly off his standards.

Coaching this Special Olympic team may get coach Marcus out of his trouble with the law but can it make him a better coach? Or possibly this legal trouble is maybe the lesson that the coach needed to grow as a great coach and succeed on the professional level again.

15th Dallas International Film Festival