Bobby Farrelly throws up an air ball in his solo directorial debut

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo

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2 out of 5

There was a time when Peter and Bobby Farrelly couldn’t care less if someone got offended by their brand of gonzo comedy. They’d laugh in the face of cancellation. Deep down tho, they were softies, hopeless romantics even.

At their best, that combination brought us There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber. While other filmmakers claimed they cared about diversity and integration, the Farrellys walked the walk. They often hired actors with disabilities and cast them in the best possible light.

Then came the flops, the separation, Green Book. Peter took the prestige route (if you think of The Greatest Beer Run Ever as prestige). Bobby stayed closer to their roots, and Champions is the result.

A defanged version of the Farrellys’ better movies, Champions is so focused on doing the right thing the comedy is sorely lacking.

If you’ve ever seen a sports movie, you’ve seen Champions. A disgraced basketball coach (Woody Harrelson), who can see the game but not the people who play it, ends up in court after a driving mishap and is ordered by the judge to coach a  team of adults with mental disabilities as community service. As is tradition, following initial mistrust, it’s a match made in misfit heaven and they bring out the best in each other.

The reason this formula comes back so often is because it works. The wild card here is Harrelson, who overcomes some character inconsistencies to carry the movie to the perfunctory championship game.

There’s no good reason for this movie to last over two hours, and yet it does, featuring one basketball match too many. It’s as if by separating, the Farrellys lost the one person who could keep the other in check: each other. ■