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‘Champions’ review: Woody Harrelson coaches the Special Olympics team

While Peter Farley was off winning an Oscar for “Green Book,” younger brother Bobby was largely absent directing. It’s been nearly a decade since the siblings shared credit — the last time being in 2014’s Dumb and Dumber To. Now, instead of competing with Peter in a game of respect, Bobby sticks to what he defines as “champions,” as Woody Harrelson plays a minor league basketball coach who is court-ordered to help the Special Olympics team for 90 days — just long enough to take the team from misfits to finalists Finalists at the national level.

There are no surprises in Heroes, unless you count the incalculable shock that such a movie ever existed. A remake of Spain’s Campeones at the 2018 box office, this quirky (if it’s supposed to be well-intentioned) comedy might have felt enlightened 25 years ago – when Forrest Gump was an Oscar favorite – but today it makes for a caring picture for people. People with mental disabilities. It’s still better than no filming at all, I suppose, and there’s some satisfaction we can take in watching Harrelson’s character overcome his prejudices—reflected by using the word that starts with the letter “R”—and grow to see these amateur athletes have more than one limiter. . But did the movie (little more than a re-“role model”) have to paint its players as clown characters from the start?

To his credit, Farrelly has been making room for characters with differences and disabilities throughout his career, encouraging laughter in audiences. with (instead of in) Everything from Cameron Diaz’s “touch-sensitive” brother in “There’s Something About Mary” to the entire cast of “The Ringer” he produced. Farrelly isn’t run by the “politically correct” playbook (“Shallow Hal” anyone?), but he’s committed to reminding audiences that most of the population doesn’t look and act like movie stars.

We mustn’t really say – but it still bears repeating, since Hollywood often ignores this point – that excluding any group gives the false impression that the real world is like the filtered version we see on screen. For people with disabilities, invisibility means that the general public is not exposed to the kind of behavior that would make them uncomfortable in the real world. “Heroes” taps into the comedic potential of this upset, presenting “Friends” (the misfit team Marcus Harrelson asks for help) as a variety of stereotypes — the kind of broad stereotypes you’d expect from a movie like “Revenge of the Nerds” — that He plays the babysitter for the good-natured Harrelson.

Wearing a padded helmet and thick glasses, Marlon (Casey Metcalfe) speaks several languages ​​and quotes cryptic trivia on command. Showtime (Bradley Edens) only knows one shot, which involves throwing the ball high above his head, but he rarely comes within 10 feet of the basket. Johnny (Kevin Iannucci) has Down syndrome and is shower-resistant. He also has an older sister, Alex (Caitlin Olson), whom Marcus bonds with in the opening scene. Except for wild-gal Cosentino (Madison Tevlin), they’re all men.

When Marcus takes over, it becomes difficult for players to dribble and swing anytime a ball is thrown at them. By the end of the season, they are playing as the Harlem Globetrotters. But as gym manager Julio (Cheech Marin) explains, the friends have been let down before and coached and abandoned by someone who wasn’t really committed to the task.

As punishment for crashing into a cop’s car while drunk, Marcus is ordered to do community service, but he has no intention of volunteering more than the mandatory 90 days. There are no prizes for predicting how his attitude will change during those three months. At first, Marcus finds the team hopeless, and who can blame him, given all the slapstick Farrelly puts on them? But then the games start, and the friends start winning.

Next thing we know, the team is invited to the Special Olympics tournament in Winnipeg, Marcus is invited to a meatloaf dinner at Johnny and Alex’s house, and the NBA invites Marcus to take a pro practice party that will keep him away from friends. Everything plays out quite predictably, with one possible exception, depending on what you make of the early “Hoosiers” reference.

Had it been set three decades ago, “Heroes” would almost certainly have been the blockbuster movie of 1993. Today, it’s a strangely outdated opportunity for disabled actors with real-world ring skills to play silly caricatures of themselves – and that’s where they’ve come from. She created Farrelly’s films and a few others, such as “How’s Your News?” Before, to remind audiences that differences can be funny, and it’s okay to laugh. Here, performances come with certain limitations (line-readings seem meticulous, never automatic), but overall, the movie makes memorable three-dimensional characters out of its players, and that’s a start.


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