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A Basketball Caper That's Out of Bounds

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 19, 1995

Fans are one thing, but Mike and Jimmy, the knucklehead heroes of the feeble basketball comedy "Celtic Pride," are something else altogether. Written by Judd Apatow and directed by Tom DeCerchio, "Celtic Pride" is clearly intended as a spoof on the contemporary mania for athletics. But not only is the picture woefully short on laughs, it's also coarse, overbearing and, in places, downright insulting.

Mike (Daniel Stern) is a former jock who couldn't make it in the NBA and has had to settle for life as a gym teacher. But even though he's married (to "NYPD Blue's" inestimable Gail O'Grady), Mike lives and breathes for his beloved Boston Celtics.

When Mike and his low-watt sidekick (Dan Aykroyd) walk into Boston Garden, they look up at the championship banners hanging from the rafters and genuflect as if they were entering St. Peter's. Furthermore, they can't understand why everyone else isn't as passionately devoted to the team as they are. When his wife becomes fed up with being a basketball widow, Mike can't understand what has happened. How, he asks, have people gotten their priorities so mixed up that they value such trivialities as job and family over the glories of sport?

The basic plot deals with a conspiracy to kidnap Lewis Stone (Damon Wayans), the hot-dogging, ball-hogging star of the Utah Jazz, the team that's locked in a battle with Boston for the NBA championship. The premise is anything but fresh (the Marx Brothers used it in "Horsefeathers"), and the slipshod, junky style of the picture makes it appear even flimsier and more dated.

Wayans has a few choice moments, especially when his character attempts to mess with Jimmy's underinflated head. But whenever the film's energy flags, DeCerchio simply points his camera in Stern's direction and waits for him to bug out; his whole performance consists of throbbing temple arteries and red-faced rage. Aykroyd's performance is less manic, less obnoxiously in-your-face, but it isn't any funnier.

Timed to coincide with the beginning of the NBA playoffs, "Celtic Pride" was clearly designed for die-hard basketball fans. But couldn't the filmmakers have at least attempted to capture some of the look and flavor of the game? And what are audiences expected to make of a film that not only suggests that cheating is okay, but also rewards its dopey protagonists?

Celtic Pride is rated R for language.

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