There’s nothing very winning about the hockey-obsessed small-town losers in “Champions.” Dour Czech dramedy, now in release domestically, feels more like a tube item and could reinforce eastern Euro stereotype concerning undiscerning fest slates before ho-hum homevid career.
In a threadbare hamlet somewhere in the Sudetenland, chums gather at the pub owned by Karel (Leos Noha) to watch the ice hockey playoffs. Karel’s wife Zdena (Klara Meliskova) is secretly involved with bus driver Milan (Tomas Matonoha), while local stoner Bohous (Jan Budar, star of Czech Lion-winning “Bored in Brno”) may or may not be the visionary who can solve the financial problems of Karel and Josef (Josef Polasek). This is the kind of film where characters hallucinate on-ice heroics through the bottom of a beer glass and the hijacking of a bus is called off mid-prank due to lack of interest. Pic hammers its message of strained friendships and dashed dreams with plodding earnestness: “We must root for ourselves because nobody else will do it for us,” says mournful Pavel (Jiri Ornest), and that’s about it for profundity. Tech credits are adequate.