Sports comedies are inherently predictable, but this fantasy, about a fan who winds up head coach of an NBA team, seems especially uninspired. Whoopi Goldberg's wholehearted and likable performance, while occasionally funny, is simply not enough to lead this standard-issue programmer to victory. The third basketball film to be released in five weeks -- after B.O. airballs "Celtic Pride" and "Sunset Park"--"Eddie" will likely be sent to the showers early in its theatrical run.

Sports comedies are inherently predictable, but this fantasy, about a fan who winds up head coach of an NBA team, seems especially uninspired. Whoopi Goldberg’s wholehearted and likable performance, while occasionally funny, is simply not enough to lead this standard-issue programmer to victory. The third basketball film to be released in five weeks — after B.O. airballs “Celtic Pride” and “Sunset Park” — “Eddie” will likely be sent to the showers early in its theatrical run.

Goldberg plays the title character, a limousine driver and vocal basketball buff who — like all New York sports fans — thinks she knows what’s best for her team, in this case the ailing New York Knicks.

Enter Wild Bill Burgess, a Texas zillionaire and the team’s new owner, played by a woefully miscast Frank Langella. A showman interested only in bolstering attendance, Wild Bill’s idea of improving the team is to hire cuter cheerleaders. Soon, through a series of events too unlikely to mention, Burgess fires his sourpuss veteran coach (Dennis Farina) and replaces him with, you guessed it, Eddie.

From there on, it’s strictly by the numbers as Goldberg does her darnedest to light a fire under the aloof, egotistical young millionaires who make up the fictional team.

The cast of real-life players do a decent job of impersonating, well, basketball players, but they — along with everyone else in the film — function strictly as straight men to Goldberg’s antics. While the comedienne’s character is hiding under beds, getting down with the halftime dance squad and firing off wisecracks from the sidelines, the others in the huge cast are reduced to cardboard cutouts. The few laughs generated while Goldberg is offscreen come from self-mockingcameos by New York fixtures Ed Koch and Donald Trump.

Worst of all — given the nearly 50 NBA players who appear in the film — there aren’t any good basketball scenes to speak of. Even the team’s inevitable rise to glory is a relatively joyless affair that offers no surprises. We know early on just what’s going to happen to the superstar player with the bad attitude and the nice-guy old-timer with bad knees. And of course, its just a matter of time before the mercenary team owner gets his comeuppance.

While the film successfully captures the flavor of New York’s fiercely opinionated yet doggedly loyal sports fans, it never quite delivers the exhilarating payoff we expect from this genre.

Tech credits are fine overall, although there are some distracting continuity problems. For instance, when the sign outside Madison Square Garden says “Sold Out,” the grandstands — like the film itself — seem pretty empty.

Eddie

Sports Comedy -- Color

Production

A Buena Vista release of a Hollywood Pictures presentation of a David Permut production in association with Polygram Filmed Entertainment/Island Pictures. Produced by David Permut, Mark Burg. Executive producers, Ron Bozman, Steve Zacharias, Jeff Buhai. Co-producer, Andrew Gunn. Directed by Steve Rash. Screenplay, Jon Connolly, David Loucka, Eric Champnella, Keith Mitchell, Steve Zacharias, Jeff Buhai.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor) Victor Kemper; editor, Richard Halsey; music, Stanley Clarke; production design, Dan Davis; art direction, Robert K. Shaw Jr.; set decoration, Roberta J. Holinko; costume design, Molly Maginnis; sound (Dolby), James E. Webb; basketball consultant, Glenn (Doc) Rivers, assistant director, Jerram A. Swartz; second-unit director, Ron Bozman; second-unit camera, Jeff Tufano, Patrick Capone, Rick Anderson; casting, Reuben Cannon & Associates. Reviewed at Bruin Theatre, L.A., May 28, 1996. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 100 min.

With

Eddie - Whoopi Goldberg Wild Bill Burgess - Frank Langella Coach Bailey - Dennis Farina Asst. Coach Zimmer - Richard Jenkins Claudine - Lisa Ann Walter Joe Nader - John Benjamin Hickey Nate Wilson - John Salley Terry Hastings - Rick Fox Stacy Patton - Malik Sealy Ivan Radovadovitch - Dwayne Schintzius Joe Sparks - Greg Ostertag
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