The first sports movie I’ve ever watched that didn’t involve the actual playing of sports scenes that usually would fill up a movie like this one. Instead, it’s a completely different type of sports story. Essentially, it’s a fictionalized version with it’s main topic being the college football scene and shows what a boycott against the NCAA would look like 72 hours before the National Championship game. Two students, LeMarcus James (Stephan James), the star quarterback who will be one of the top draft picks and a pretty much guaranteed contract for millions of dollars playing in the NFL – and fellow player and friend Emmett Sunday (Alexander Ludwig), not a draft pick and destined to be one of the thousands who don’t go on to the NFL. It’s an interesting concept that I believe was a huge subject a few years back of how they make billions of these guys, and then whether due to injury or just the fact there are more college teams/players than their are professional ones, they end up with nothing.
With a little backstory involving that centers around Kristen Chenoweth, cast against type as head Coach James Lazor (J.K. Simmons), wife Bailey Lazor, who is sleeping with of all people, the labor law professor Elliott Schmidt (Timothy Olyphant), who is actually the one who inspired James to make his stand. The first good thing about this movie is the cast, especially J. K. Simmons as the old, broken college football coach with the desire of winning the national championship with his team, while dealing with his rebellious players, has his wife walk out on him. He again brought passion and energy to his role. His dialogues were powerful, and can be emotional too and then flip a switch and he can be both fearsome and convincing. As well, Uzo Aduba as Katharine Poe, a ruthless NCAA attorney who has a backstory of her own, which comes out in a stand up monologue near the end.
To sum it up simply, the movie it isn’t about “a” game, but it’s about “the” game, that’s being played by all the ‘executives’ involved in college level football. And to be fair, it might take sides here and there, but it also presents both sides fairly well. All in all, this is a decent watch and definitely scores a touchdown, though it does lack the extra oompha to give it the extra point.
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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of STX Entertainment
“NATIONAL CHAMPIONS” is now playing in theaters – coming to VOD on Tuesday, December 27, 2021.