A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Positive messages about the value of supportive friendships and family relationships, the importance of being kind and emotionally open to others, the courage it can take both to compete athletically and to live your life authentically. Teamwork and perseverance are also themes.
Positive Role Models
Characters change over the course of the movie: Marcus becomes more emotionally connected to others and learns about the give and take of relationships, Alex learns how to give others more freedom to be themselves, Johnny and Benny each learn to confront the people in their lives whose low expectations limit them.
Two main characters of color; most of the cast and significant characters are White. Ten actors with intellectual and developmental disabilities (including Down syndrome and autism) are authentically cast as Marcus' team. While their role in the story is to support the journey of a character who isn't disabled, they're depicted as unique individuals. Some jokes are based in their personal quirks, but laughs aren't at the actors' expense.
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Violence & Scariness
Violence is infrequent, but in one dramatic scene, Marcus pushes his boss to the ground. In another, he drinks and collides with the back of a police car while driving. When a stranger insults his team and calls them a slur, Marcus punches the person in the stomach; the film seems to view this as a victory.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Marcus and Alex meet on Tinder and have a one-night stand, followed by an affair both insist is "just sex." They kiss, sometimes passionately, and fall into bed together, then wake up wrapped in sheets. In one scene, Alex retrieves her underwear from under Marcus' pillow. Team member Craig seems preoccupied with sex; many jokes are about him telling his teammates about his girlfriend, who's into "nasty stuff," and about his sex life (he mentions a "three way"), though he doesn't go into frank detail.
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Cursing includes spare use of "f---ing," plus "s--t," "a--hole," "son of a bitch," "damn," and "hell." In one scene, a character shows double middle fingers to someone she's angry at. Two instance of characters being called "retards"; in both cases, the people who use the slur are are swiftly reprimanded.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Marcus drinks and drives at the beginning of this movie and is arrested for a DUI. He doesn't drive for the rest of the movie, and a character who suffered a traumatic brain injury due to being hit by a drunken driver explains briefly how dramatically his life was affected by drinking and driving.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Champions is director Bobby Farrelly's comedy about a basketball coach named Marcus (Woody Harrelson) who is court-ordered to coach a team of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (including Down syndrome and autism) after he's arrested for a DUI. The team members are all authentically cast, and while their role as a group is primarily to support the story of a character who isn't disabled, they're all presented as individuals and treated with respect. There are some jokes based in their personal quirks, but those laughs aren't at the actors' expense. Violence includes a few brief physical scuffles, including a scene in which Marcus punches someone for calling his team "retards." Characters kiss passionately, fall into bed, and then wake up wrapped in sheets. One of the team members also often makes revelations about his sex life; he mentions having a "three way" and says that his girlfriend is into "nasty stuff." Language includes "f---ing," "s--t," "a--h--e," "damn," "hell," and "son of a bitch," plus two instances of characters using a slur for those with developmental disabilities. Themes include teamwork and perseverance, and there are positive messages about the value of supportive friendships and family relationships. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This sports comedy could have gone terribly wrong, yet it manages to avoid condescending to its disabled actors. Champions isn't cruel, nor does it punch down: Each member of The Friends team is given time to show their personality and individuality. Still, that doesn't mean that their role isn't to support the journey of a nondisabled character (because it is) or that the movie isn't wholly predictable (because it follows the exact beats of both a sports drama and a hero's journey). We know from the first moment we see him that Marcus is a gruff-yet-lovable guy who's destined to be emotionally softened up by his experiences during the movie and that the whole thing will end in laughter and hugs.
Yet despite Champions' lack of surprises, it does have its charms, chief among them The Friends teammates, who all play to their strengths. Johnny gets the most screen time and the most distinctive arc as he gathers the courage to break free from his overprotective family. But other teammates have their own minor arcs, including Benny (James Day Keith), who confronts an abusive boss, and Darius (Joshua Felder), who begins to resolve his lingering anger at the drunk driver who unwittingly changed the course of his life. These powerful moments are summed up when Marcus explains to his team that it doesn't matter whether they win or lose on the basketball court because they've already won by confronting and rising above the ignorant judgment of people who write them off. OK, so that speech was predictable, too. But Marcus still has a point, and Champions will put a smile on many viewers' faces -- especially those who are OK with a movie that has no surprises but plenty of heart.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.