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CHAMPIONS: 3 ½ STARS. “Everyone in the film is a champion in their own way.”

In Hollywood he last name Farrelly comes with expectations. As a duo, the Farrelly brothers, Peter and Bobby, were mainstays of big-screen gross-out comedies with titles like “Me, Myself & Irene” and “There’s Something About Mary” decorating their IMDB page.

On his own, eldest brother Peter scored big with “Green Book,” an earnest film whose depiction of race relations in 1960s America won three Oscars, but was a step away from the kind of work that made him famous.

This weekend, younger brother Bobby strikes out on his own with “Champions.” A remake of a 2018 Goya Award winning Spanish film, the new version starring Woody Harrelson, now playing in theatres, is neither as funny as his early work or as Oscar-baity as his brother’s solo debut.

The action begins at a J League, Iowa Stallions basketball game. The clock is counting down when Coach Phil (Ernie Hudson) makes a call that irks assistant coach, and basketball know-it-all Marcus (Harrelson).

“He knows the game better than anyone I’ve ever known or played with,” says Phil, “but he doesn’t know the players.”

As usual, the hot-headed Marcus lets his temper gets the best of him and he pushes Phil to the ground. Fired, he drowns his sorrows at a bar, gets arrested and is sentenced to ninety days Community Service coaching the “Friends,” a b’ball team of adults with intellectual disabilities at a local rec center.

With an eye toward competing in the Special Olympics, Marcus teaches the team as they teach him to see the players for who they really are, and not just for their skill set on the court.

“Champions” is a very specific story about Marcus’s redemption via a team that teaches him the true meaning of what it means to be a team, but in its specificity, it becomes an open-hearted, universal tale of the power of respect and acceptance. And fart and barf gags because, this is, after all, a Farrelly movie.

It is also a Farrelly movie in the way it treats its characters. The film was shot in Manitoba and cast through St. Amant, a non-profit organization that works with Manitobans who live with developmental disabilities and autism. Echoing past movies like “Stuck on You” and “There’s Something About Mary,” Farrelly wisely makes the young actors who make up the team the film’s beating heart. He treats them with respect while allowing them to carry a large part of the story.

Even though the story was inspired by the Aderes team in Burjassot who won twelve Spanish championships between 1999 and 2014, “Champions” is predictable. You can guess that, win or lose, Marcus will be as affected by the team as they are by him, so it’s about the journey, not the destination, and Farrelly has cast well, choosing actors we get invested in. Harrelson brings edge and warmth, and Kaitlin Olson, as Marcus’s sorta-kinda love interest has edge and compassion. Everyone in the film is a champion in their own way but it is the Friends who make this a winning film.

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