Champions

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.

With:
With: Klara Meliskova, Will Spoor, Jiri Ornest, Jan Budar, Leos Noha, Tomas Matonoha, Josef Polasek, Cyril Drozda, Jan Rehak, Radek Kostal.

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.

Champions

Czech Republic

Production: A CinemArt release (in the Czech Republic) of a Negativ, Czech TV, Barrandov Studios production. (International sales: Negativ, Prague.) Produced by Milan Kuchynka, Pavel Strnad. Directed by Marek Najbrt. Screenplay, Benjamin Tucek, Robert Geisler, Najbrt.

Crew: Camera (color), Miloslav Holman; editor, Pavel Hrdlicka; music, Petr Marek; production designer, Milan Bycek; costume designer, Andrea Kralova; sound (Dolby Digital), Jakub Cech. Reviewed at Finale Plzen Film Festival (competing), Czech Republic, March 29, 2004. Original title: Mistri. Running time: 84 MIN.

With: With: Klara Meliskova, Will Spoor, Jiri Ornest, Jan Budar, Leos Noha, Tomas Matonoha, Josef Polasek, Cyril Drozda, Jan Rehak, Radek Kostal.

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