By: Michael M. Humel

     Champions is a movie that will leave you feeling inspired by the power of teamwork and dedication. The film tells the story of coach Mark Marakovich (played by Woody Harrelson), who takes a job coaching a basketball team of adults with intellectual disabilities. At first, Marakovich is only concerned about winning and doesn’t really care about the players themselves. He doesn’t take the time to learn about who they are as players. He doesn’t even know their names. However, as the story unfolds, we see the coach’s transformation into someone who truly cares about his team and his players.

     One of the most poignant relationships in the movie is the one between Marakovich and Alex (played by Kaitlin Olson.) Initially, their relationship is purely sexual, but as the movie progresses, they develop a deeper emotional connection. This added a layer of real emotion to the movie and made it more impactful.

     Another great element of the movie was the relationship between the players and Marakovich. It was refreshing to see how dirty jokes could bring them all closer together. Those jokes were a way for them to bond and for the coach to understand and appreciate his players better. It added a level of humor to the story. 

     The movie had a well balanced mixture of emotion and humor. There were moments in the movie that made me cry, and there were moments that made me laugh.

The standout performances in the movie came from Woody Harrelson who plays Marcus Marakovich Kaitlin Olson who plays Alex Madison Tevlin who plays Consentino and Johnny (played by Kevin Ianucci. Harrelson’s range as an actor was evident as he delivered a powerful and emotional performance. Alex was an authentic on the screen, Consentino was the standout in whatever scene she had lines in. I found myself smiling or laughing at everything she said.

The movie provides a touching portrayal of persons with intellectual disabilities, highlighting the struggles they face daily and the misconceptions that society places on them. The film shines a light on the need for inclusivity and provides a fresh perspective on what it means to show compassion to those who are disabled or differently able. It shows that each person has unique personalities and strengths that should be celebrated. 

One of the highlights of the movie for me was the storyline of Darius. He refuses to play for coach Marakovich and we don’t find out until later. When it’s revealed why he won’t play it’s an aha moment that sheds a different light on how I looked at him. 

Champions is a heartwarming and inspiring film that will have you laughing and crying in almost consecutively. It is an excellent portrayal of persons with intellectual disabilities, and it’s refreshing to see a movie where they are depicted as more than their disability. The film is an expression of love and inclusivity. I highly recommended it for those who want to learn more about people with disabilities a those in adaptive sports. It will  leave you feeling inspired and filled with hope.