Champions parents guide

Champions Parent Guide

Heartwarming and inclusive, this otherwise fine film is marred by excessive crude language and sexual discussion.

Overall B-

Theaters: A former basketball coach is sentenced to community service for a drunk driving offence and is assigned to coach a team for people with intellectual disabilities.

Release date March 10, 2023

Violence B
Sexual Content C+
Profanity D+
Substance Use C-

Why is Champions rated PG-13? The MPAA rated Champions PG-13 for strong language and crude/sexual reference.

Run Time: 123 minutes

Parent Movie Review

In one night, Marcus Marakovich (Woody Harrelson) makes three catastrophically bad discussions. First, he has a forceful disagreement with the head coach of the junior league basketball team for which he is the assistant coach – in the middle of the game. Second, he loses his temper and shoves the coach to the floor – as the cameras roll. Third, he drowns his sorrows in the local bar – and crashes into the back of a parked police car while driving under the influence. Almost immediately, Marcus is unemployed and facing criminal charges.

When Marcus finally gets his day in court, the judge gives him a choice: eighteen months in jail or ninety days coaching a basketball team for intellectually challenged young people. Marcus might be arrogant and self-absorbed, but he isn’t stupid. He signs up for the volunteer coaching gig.

Upon arrival at the community center, Marcus is overwhelmed at the task before him. Just like the players in every other underdog sports movie, this crew is a ragtag bunch who lack discipline, don’t function as a cohesive team, and have personal issues that threaten to pull their focus from the sport. Benny (James Day Keith) can’t get time off work to attend games, Cosetino (Madison Tevlin) has been benched for injuries, Johnny (Kevin Iannucci) is struggling with a major life decision, and the most gifted player, Darius (Joshua Felder), refuses to play if Marcus is the coach. For once, Marcus is going to have to reach beyond his recognized technical expertise in the game and learn to care about his players as people.

Trying to review Champions has me smashing my head into the keyboard in frustration. This movie has a great story and appealing characters, but it contains too much negative content for me to recommend it to the family audiences that would otherwise love it. The script contains multiple slang terms for male genitals and male sexual arousal and there are frequent moments of crude sexual innuendo, including brief mention of a “threesome”. Marcus is also involved in a sexual relationship that begins as a bad Tinder date and later reignites as a “no-strings” deal. Whenever he tries to raise the issue of a deeper emotional connection, Alex (Kaitlin Olson) shuts him down, determined to limit their activities to sex. I’m guessing that most parents will not consider a transactional sexual relationship to be something they want to watch with their teens, even without explicit activity or nudity. Parents will also not approve of a scene where two adults pretend to be police officers and extort money out of a bigoted adult: he might be a jerk but this behavior is criminal and shouldn’t be justified on screen.

The negative content is particularly annoying because the rest of the film is heartwarming without becoming saccharine. Yes, it follows the predictable beats of an underdog sports flick, but it does so with heart and has the courage to depart from the formula to keep things real. Marcus has a convincing redemption story: as he begins to walk in other people’s shoes and understand their challenges, he’s able to look beyond his narrow view of success and see a more diverse, vibrant world. His wannabe athletes live rich, complicated lives that don’t fall into the sentimental “Tiny Tim” stereotype that so often diminishes disabled characters on screen. In fact, this film does much more than just provide visible diversity or representation. It brings to life people with intellectual challenges and neurodivergence and shows their differences not as disabilities but as contributions; as unique perspectives that can change the way we see ourselves and each other and how we measure success. It’s a great message: if only the film didn’t foul out so often on its way to the net.

Directed by Bobby Farrelly. Starring Woody Harrelson, Ernie Hudson, Cheech Marin. Running time: 123 minutes. Theatrical release March 10, 2023. Updated

Watch the trailer for Champions

Rating & Content Info

Why is Champions rated PG-13? Champions is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for strong language and crude/sexual reference.

Violence: A man shoves another to the ground in a disagreement. A man punches someone for making a bigoted comment. There is mention of a brain injury caused by a drunk driver. A man crashes into a police car while driving under the influence.
Sexual Content: There are frequent, undetailed conversations about sex. A person mentions a threesome. There is frequent reference to male genitalia and male sexual arousal. A man and woman kiss passionately and are shown kissing in bed and embracing under bedsheets: sex is discussed and the activity is strongly implied but there is no explicit content. A man and woman discuss a sexual relationship free of commitment or emotional entanglements.
Profanity: There are just under three dozen profanities in the script, including two sexual expletives (and a character making a sexual hand gesture with both hands), eleven anatomical swear words, eight minor swear words, seven terms of deity, and five scatological curses. There is also frequent use of crude terms for male genitals and sexual activity. A developmental slur is used on a few occasions.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A man gets drunk and then causes a car accident. People drink alcohol with meals.

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Champions Parents' Guide

What does Marcus learn from the players on the basketball team? How does his work with them change his perspective on his own life and priorities?

In his pep talk, Marcus tells his players that they are already champions because they are brave. What kind of bravery do they demonstrate in their lives? Do you know other people whose courage is unacknowledged but is worth emulating?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

If you’re interested in stories about disabled athletes, you can watch Soul Surfer. This film tells the true story of Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm to a shark attack in Hawaii. The young woman was determined to recover and surf again. Also based on a true story is Rudy, the story of Rudy Ruettiger, an intellectually challenged young man who lived his dream of playing football for Notre Dame.

A lacrosse team from the Canadian territory of Nunavut fight the challenges of addiction, family dysfunction, and a suicide epidemic as they aim for success in The Grizzlies.

Basketball movies are easy to find. Gene Hackman stars as the new coach of a losing team in small town Indiana in Hoosiers. Another struggling coach is at the helm of another struggling team in The Way Back. Glory Road is set in the 1960s, a time of fiercely defended racial segregation. When coach Don Haskins signs up some African Americans to play on his college team, he stirs up a storm and changes history.