Starring: Javier Gutiérrez, José de Luna, Sergio Olmo
Director: Javier Fesser
Running Time: 124 mins
Champions (Campeones) is a Spanish film about a basketball coach who, after an altercation with police, is sentenced to spend three months of community service, coaching a team of mentally disabled players.
Although it tells a fairly pleasant and occasionally uplifting story, Champions is unfortunately far too generic a film to really capture your imagination, suffering from underwhelming characterisation and less-than-stellar humour, while its central sports story feels just a little too Hollywood to invoke any strong emotional drama from beneath the surface.
Before I get into that, however, I will say that this film does have a decent balance between its lighter side and its more dramatic edge. It may not carry out either in particularly sterling form, but if you want a film that’s got a bit of both, making you laugh as well as offering something a little more serious, then Champions does a good job of it throughout, and far more so than many other films that try to manage the same balance.
Another plus comes in the form of some of the film’s performances. While none of the movie’s characters stand out particularly, the actors do a good job to inject as much energy as possible into proceedings, with Javier Gutiérrez giving a thoroughly entertaining lead performance, and some supporting players including Sergio Olmo, José de Luna and Juan Margallo in particular proving immensely likable throughout.
As nice as the performances are, however, I never felt particularly endeared to this film, largely because it is in all truth a rather predictable and formulaic affair. While it attempts to change the underdogs sports story up a bit with its inclusion of mentally challenged characters at the centre of the story, the film doesn’t do enough to use that unique element to make things feel a little different, which is where things really start to fall apart.
For one, the movie just isn’t as funny as it aims to be. I said that it does have moments of pleasant humour, but in general, the comedy falls flat far too often, and the way that it uses its characters’ various unique personalities for comedic effect often comes off as a little forced and superficial, rather than using the relationships established between them to make some more relatable and entertaining humour.
Also, the characters themselves are way too underdeveloped. In part seemingly due to a bit of complacency on the screenplay’s part, picking characters so ingrained in the underdogs formula that it doesn’t really go all out to show you more about them in particular, but also partly due to a somewhat over-stuffed lead cast, with Gutiérrez surrounded by a handful of co-stars that just don’t have the time in the movie to really shine.
As a result, the whole film is just a little too shallow and a little too generic to really engross you. Sure, it has some fun moments, and it occasionally manages to prove a little inspiring as well, but on the whole, Champions is a movie that really fails to deliver enough from its premise to grab your attention, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.8 overall.