In a time when it feels like every film in the cinema needs to have better special effects or the longest action sequence it is nice for a film to come along that is just pure at heart. Now that is not a term you find yourself using when you normally refer to the work of director Bobby Farrelly – after all he is the man who might have brought us classic comedies like There’s Something About Mary but he also brought Dumb and Dumber To – yet here we are with his latest film – Champions – and it is a movie of pure heart.

The remake of a Spanish film of the same name Champions sees minor league basketball coach, Marcus (Woody Harrelson – Zombieland), be court ordered to watch a Special Olympics’ Basketball team – a role that sees Marcus completely out of his depth.

Here Marcus is introduced to people like Johnny (Kevin Iannucci – The Best Of Enemies) who have a love for basketball but perhaps not the skills to go with it. Then there are players like Showtime (newcomer Bradley Edens) who tries the no-look shot every time heshoots and horribly misses. Worse still for Marcus is that coaching the team means that he has to spend more time with a woman whom he had a disastrous Tinder date with – Alex (Kaitlin Olson – Finding Dory).

You could argue that Champions is the kind of film where you know how the film is going to end up, let’s be honest it follows the same formula that most of The Mighty Ducks films did, but this is still a film that is not only worth a look but a film that a lot of audience members will fall completely in love with.

See it is not the destination that the audience needs to look forward to with Champions it is the journey that leads you there and the people that you meet on the way that makes this such a special film.

It is impossible not to watch this film and come out of it viewing people with a disability in a whole new light. With Farrelly’s name attached to the film you could be forgiven for fearing that the film might just be two hours of politically-incorrect jokes made at the expense of the disabled cast – but that certainly isn’t the case. Instead Farrelly has delivered a film that shows the frustrations that people with disabilities have to face every day – not being taken seriously by those around them, being told to give up on their dreams because of their disability and fighting for independence when those around them don’t feel like they can handle the world around them.

The friendship that develops between Marcus and Johnny in this film makes this one of the best buddy films that we have seen for awhile and it is that relationship that also sees Marcus grow as a character – and along that journey Farrelly also finds time to insert some jokes that actually work and will make the audience laugh.

The team of screenwriters on this film have to work hard to make Marcus a likable character especially after his opening scenes where he simply seems like a bad-tempered and rude man. The screenplay is gifted enough to show the audience why Marcus is that way and then take the audience on his amazing trip of redemption. That trip is filled with funny and heart-warming moments, and it is for that reason that this film far exceeds what many will expect from it.

Another key to this film working so well is the performance of Woody Harrelson himself. As usual Harrelson brings his A-Game and once again audiences are reminded that Harrelson is an actor who is at home in any genre. From hard-hitting films like Rampart to mega-blockbusters like The Hunger Games Harrelson almost always steals the scenes from those around him – and that is no different here where Harrelson once again returns to his comedic roots and shines. He is well supported by the likes of Kevin Iannucci and Kaitlin Olson and the scenes that the trio share throughout the film are some of the most memorable and powerful.

Champions shouldn’t be written off as just as a comedy. This is a pretty powerful film that explores the serious themes of friendship and what it is like living in the modern world with a disability. This is a heart-warming film that delivers just the right amount of laughs as well.

3.5/5 Stars