National Champions (2021)

June 30th, Movies 31

The June Swoon comes to a close today with the final film in the binge. The choice I made was a football movie featuring J.K. Simmons and Stephan James called National Champions. Truth is the film is less about football and more about the system of college football and how the NCAA makes billions of dollars while the student-athletes get nothing.

In National Champions, two football teams are preparing for the college championship game when the star quarterback LeMarcus James (Stephan James) and his friend, another player Emmett Sunday (Alexander Ludwig) announced that they were going to boycott the game unless the NCAA changed their system and began paying and providing benefits to the players that the NCAA was building their brand upon.

LeMarcus and Emmett went around to players on the team trying to build up support, others to join in on the boycott. Meanwhile, Coach James Lazor (J.K. Simmons) was trying to hold his team together before the big game and met up with the officials of the NCAA trying to break down the boycott.

The fact that the NCAA is a billion dollar business that absolutely takes advantage of the young men to make that money, and then the athletes are not allowed to benefit for it. The small percentage that go on to the NFL may benefit from their college games, but the vast majority of the players will not play any more. Many of them find themselves back in poverty or in financial difficulties and facing injuries or pain from their playing days.

The film really did a great job of building tension as they approached the game and what the individuals involved would do in order to get the game played. JK Simmons was fantastic as always, but so was Stephan James. These performances were what this film depended on.

I do believe that the storyline involving Coach Lazor’s wife Baily (Kristin Chenoweth) and a professor at the college Elliott Schmidt (Timothy Olyphant) was too far, and, in the end, was a strange twist. This actually hurt the story and distracted from the overall story. It is a shame because I do love Timothy Olyphant.

The film’s message is one that is absolutely a problem that needs to be addressed and the movie does a great job of showing the troubles with the NCAA and college football. It is able to present the message while still being entertaining.

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