A film in which a character with a disability is also played by an actor or actress with a disability is by no means a matter of course. For the comedy “Because we champions are” this rare casting principle was realized in team strength. “Four months of scouting and 250 sightings in workshops for the disabled, sports clubs and inclusion theaters” and a two-month casting were necessary, RTL reports, to find the seven men and one woman who, as an inclusive basketball team, form the comic center of the Vox film. Iris Baumüller’s casting agency “Die Besetzer” mastered the unusual task.
The physically or mentally handicapped people only play supporting roles in this film. However, these are atypical for the German film and television landscape in several respects: They are active figures, not only in the sporting sense, who deal with their limitations as a matter of course and, as a team, almost act as role models without any competitive envy.
In essence, like all people, they are blessed with different qualities, and a short info block presents their independent lives beyond the hobby of basketball. In view of the fact that dismay is replaced by situation comedy and dialogue jokes, one also accepts one or the other sentence that sounds obviously made up. Prejudices are turned on their heads. Only those who are “not disabled” complain here.
The “meadow foam cicadas”, as the thrown together basketball bunch is called, must be taken to heart at first sight. Admittedly, the prejudiced viewer initially has the thought: Can they handle basketball at all? Answer: more or less, but that’s just not the point.
You see big and small, fat and thin people. Two have Down’s syndrome, one wears a head protection, others only realize when they speak that their mental abilities are limited. The only woman joins the ensemble with a delay, but with all the greater effect, which somewhat reduces the male predominance. Whereby: Krafzik (Antonia Riet), of short stature and also born with trisomy 21 (Down’s syndrome), is actually the manliest character in the film, a rough cursing powerhouse – also a reversal of prevailing ideas.
Of course, it is essential that in such a comedy the supposedly “normal” are actually the “loony”. The anti-hero who needs some purification is Andreas Ellgut (Wotan Wilke Möhring). After fisticuffs with his boss, the assistant coach is thrown out of the Bonn Bundesliga team, gets drunk in a bar, damages a police car on the way home and shows zero understanding. In addition, his wife (Katharina Schüttler) has just separated from him, and the son (Ben Münchow) is not exactly thrilled when his father seeks shelter with him. His father punished his efforts to gain a foothold as an actor with disregard. Only performance and hard work count for Ellgut. And of course he mocks politically correct language and whole grain nutrition. Möhring has played more demanding roles.
In any case, the height of the fall could not be greater when the judge (Sabine Vitua) ordered him to train the “meadow foam cicadas”. Things are predictable, but quite entertaining. Of course, the German television production “Weil wir Champions sind” is not an original invention, but an adaptation of the cinema film “Campeones”, which won a number of prizes in Spain in 2018. Especially the refreshing comedy in the confrontation of the socially handicapped performance fetishist Ellgut with the quite different peculiarities of the team was partially taken over one to one. On the other hand, the love story in “Campeones” is more important than in the German adaptation, and in the production of the Munich Constantin, the finale is also shortened. The happy ending, which celebrates team spirit and shared experiences, is identical.
Although the many basketball scenes are neither sporting nor cinematic revelations, you have a fever with these guys who likeably undauntedly face all challenges. Unfortunately, the German TV version is served with a musical accompaniment that makes (not only) commercial productions sound so interchangeable at times.