I am on the autism spectrum and I also advocate for others on the spectrum. Champions is about people with intellectual disabilities, and it is based on a true story, so I really loved it. It also takes place in Iowa, the state where my mom is from, which added to my enjoyment.
In Champions, a coach inspires a team of athletes with intellectual disabilities. The disabilities were confusing for the coach at first, but he turns out to be a great role model. And that is where Champions shines as an inspiration for people around the world who have intellectual disabilities.
The coach in Champions is a minor league basketball coach named Marcus, played by Woody Harrelson. Marcus has a harsh reputation, and his attitude gets him into trouble. After losing his coaching job he gets into a situation that lands him on probation and he’s required to do many hours of community service. To fulfill his obligation he starts coaching a basketball team of people with learning disabilities. In the beginning, Marcus is frustrated and feels that it is not for him. But he adjusts, and he begins to find his coaching jam again. With the help of Julio, a staff member from the school played by Cheech Marin, Marcus strives to be the coach he can be. With many players displaying different traits or routines, Marcus gradually begins to see himself as their role model, and that is one of the things I love about Champions. It shows that even someone who has fallen on hard times can help others go further in life.
Harrelson delivers a very heartfelt performance as Marcus in Champions. He learns to accept his players and how they feel about themselves. He also learns to understand how his errors means he needs to strive to improve as well. Marcus discovers that many of his players are higher functioning than he realized. One player knows many languages, another works in a restaurant, one delivers mail, and many have their own routines that they do daily. I was touched by this aspect of the film because I know that people with disabilities need assistance for some things, but they don’t necessarily need as much help as some people think. They may struggle in some areas, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t capable in other areas. It’s just that their sensitivities must be taken into consideration.
The overall message of Champions is that everyone is a winner, and that despair can turn into hope. The players on Marcus’s team became winners with Marcus’s help and inspiration. And although losing his job and being on probation was very hard for Marcus, he came to realize that although he may not be able to coach a big-league team, it wasn’t the end of the world, and coaching this team could be rewarding.
I have suffered due to my own errors, too. There was a time where I didn’t want to go to events or places with others on the spectrum. Over time though, my mentors and peers helped me find my voice. Now I thrive as a film critic, and I also strive to encourage others like myself to do what they can to live the fullest life possible. Champions reminded me that even something bad can turn into a good thing if you work hard and have the right attitude.
Champions is a wonderful experience and, again, I really loved it. It’s a film that will inspires those with disabilities and those on the spectrum, as well as people who don’t have those issues, to be winners. There is little bit of crude humor, but not much. The film has a positive outlook throughout, and its presentation is spellbinding.
Three and a half stars for Champions.
Champions is in theaters March 10.