The Commercial Appeal
Heaven will be a place where mysteries will be unveiled
From the writings of the Rev. Billy Graham
Q: Why is the Bible filled with mysteries? I thought Jesus came to clear things up with people. Why are we left with so many questions about suffering, sickness, and despair? Our world is filled with it, and I am at a loss to help my friends who are not believers to understand where Christians get their hope that someday we will understand this life.
A: Heaven will be a place where mysteries will be unveiled. We will understand more clearly about suffering and discouragement, and we will have more clarity about the enormity of man’s sin. Mankind often fails to comprehend that God never intended for people to cope with such things, but when the human race fell because of its disobedience to God, consequences of sin have followed close behind.
The question we must ask is what should we do when these things beset us? As Christians, do we stay in our despair because of sickness, or do we ask the Lord to show us how we can use difficult circumstances to point others to His comfort and healing through His gift of salvation extended to all people?
When disappointment or tragedy strikes, we have a decision to make: Will we turn away from God, or will we turn toward Him? There are two roads before us. One road leads to doubt, bitterness, fear, and hopelessness. The other road leads to hope, peace, strength and joy.
When people seek to find independence from God, they have lost a sense of purpose in life. The more worldly pleasure we enjoy, the less satisfied and contented we are with life. Trusting in Jesus today and in all the tomorrows brings assurance that He has answers for every mystery, and they are all according to His will.
Big Hollywood names have been the crook to pull audiences into movies since the Golden Age of film.
So it’s no surprise that “Champions” also uses star power to lure moviegoers. But the film’s true star isn’t Woody Harrelson, and it isn’t just one actor. The entire ensemble of neurodivergent and differently-abled actors shines brighter than any of the other cast members.
Based on the 2018 Spanish film “Campeones,” which was inspired by a true story, the American version of “Champions” is directed by Bobby Farrelly. He made his mark with films such as “There’s Something About Mary” and “Stuck on You.” His sense of comedy and heart can be felt in “Champions.”
Woody Harrelson stars as Marcus, a lowly assistant basketball coach who can’t see beyond the court. Gruff and an all-around mean guy, Marcus loses his not-so glamorous job after an altercation with the head coach of the Des Moines Stallions. If that’s not enough, his petty fight somehow makes it onto “Sportscenter” and becomes a meme. It’s not flattering. Unsurprisingly, Marcus gets drunk and ends up with a DUI.
It’s a familiar path in sports stories. A down-and-out athlete or team struggles to grow and achieve greatness, and then a finale where the heroes win, at least on some level. For Marcus, his redemption arc begins at his DUI hearing. With the choice to go to prison for nearly two years or do community service for 90 days, he opts for the shorter route. After all, he should be coaching in the NBA. He doesn’t have time to stick around in Des Moines. Or so he says.
The community service involves coaching the local Special Olympics basketball team, called the Friends. Marcus, who seems to have never connected with another human being, goes through a transformation while coaching the dynamic team. From nasty to lovable, the Friends show him the humanity behind the basketball – something he sorely needs.
Again, the real stars of the movie are the basketball team. There’s the star player with the magic touch, Darius (Joshua Felder). Johnny (Kevin Iannucci)
Rating: PG-13 for strong language and crude/sexual reference.
is the team’s heart and soul, someone you just want to hug. The backwarddunking, but always missing, Showtime (Bradley Edens) is sweet and helps unite the team at a crucial moment. Cody (Ashton Gunning) not only plays basketball but is in a rock band. Blair (Tom Sinclair) always shows up and is the cornerstone of the team. Arthur (Alex Hintz) is a walking encyclopedia and closet comedian, although he might not know that. Then there is Benny, who rightly earns the title of Champion when he sticks up for himself to play with his team. James Day Keith’s performance is so endearing and authentic that he quickly becomes a favorite. Rounding out the team are Craig (Matthew Von Der Ahe) and Marlon (Casey Metcalfe), both of who are rock-solid athletes and actors, and Cosentino (Madison Tevlin). Ball of fire, feminist, and all-around queen, Cosentino doesn’t take prisoners. Her sassy lines are gold, and Tevlin brightens the whole screen.
Why go through the entire team? Because films like “Champions” are few and far between. Opportunities for actors like these are also rare. The last major film that stars an actor having Down syndrome is “Peanut Butter Falcon” (2019) with Zack Gottsagen and Shia Labeouf. And even that film resides more in the independent movie bracket than Hollywood limelight.
Hollywood has a long history of not doing well when it comes to diverse casts and crews. And unless it makes a point to seek out films with independent actors, it’ll rarely get to see the diverse talent they have. That is a shame.
The question: Is “Champions” exploitative of the disabled community? That query is lightly grappled with in the film. The answer is no. Each member of the Friends team is a complete person. The movie makes a point to show what each of them do for work, their quirks and personalities and that they can be independent.