The movie National Champions could hit theaters at an ideal time for sports movies and college football fans. The 2021-22 regular season will have ended, bowl games will begin to be played, and the sport will wait for the College Football Playoff to kick off.
A trailer for the college football drama was released on Tuesday, establishing a story that takes place before the national title game in New Orleans. Three days prior to the big game, quarterback LeMarcus James (played by Stephan James, If Beale Street Could Talk) and teammate Emmett Sunday (Alexander Ludwig, Heels) decide to lead a strike among players on the two teams to convince the NCAA to fairly compensate college athletes.
James is the top player in the nation, expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, will never have more leverage and takes full advantage of his position. That puts him at odds with coach James Lazor (Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons), whose legacy is only lacking a national championship, and top power-brokers at the school and NCAA.
Check out the trailer for the film, which opens in theaters on Dec. 10:
As seen in the preview, the players’ stand ignites a national debate over whether or not college athletes should be played and brings in several actual sports media figures for appearances in the film. Among the personalities seen in the trailer are ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, Jemele Hill, and Peacock’s Michael Holley, along with professional athletes Malcolm Jenkins and Russell Wilson.
Based on the trailer, National Champions doesn’t appear to be many sports scenes, so viewers might not need to be concerned about authentic football action. The story is about players, coaches, executives, and media talking, arguing, and pleading for their respective sides of the issue. (Since the film is based on a stage play, perhaps being dialogue-driven shouldn’t be a surprise.) That could amp up the drama, but maybe leave some viewers wanting some more action.
Another takeaway from the trailer is the impressive cast. Besides Simmons and James, the ensemble includes Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black), Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Timothy Olyphant (Justified), and David Koechner (Anchorman). The film is directed by Ric Roman Waugh (Angel Has Fallen) and written by Adam Mervis (21 Bridges), adapting his original stage play.
National Champions opens in theaters on Dec. 10 (pushed back from its original Nov. 24 release date).