Friday April 19, 1996
This is a bad time for NBA fans in Boston. Just as their beloved Celtics are about to wrap up a dismal season, with nearly 50 losses and no berth in the playoffs, Hollywood comes out with a comedy about the Celtics that's even worse than the team. And not half as funny.
"Celtic Pride," written by Judd Apatow and directed by former Madison Avenue ad executive Tom De Cerchio, is the story of two fanatical, Irish American Celtics fans who, on the eve of the seventh game of the NBA finals, decide to kidnap the leading scorer for the other team.
That's not a bad idea, if you can imagine a pair of brain-fried sports locos trying to detain Michael Jordan long enough for their team to win the championship. But nothing Apatow and De Cerchio do with the premise works. It plays like an idea for a five-minute skit on "Saturday Night Live," with Daniel Stern and Dan Aykroyd trying to stretch it out to 90 minutes.
No can do. Stern and Aykroyd are cartoon comedy actors. Their humor isn't rooted in character, but in physical shtick, and they aren't funny enough at that to overcome the loathsomeness of the sports-geek stereotypes they represent.
Stern's Mike O'Hara, an ex-jock living vicariously through his heroes, and Aykroyd's Jimmy Flaherty, a simple-minded plumber with a basement full of museum-quality sports memorabilia, are intended as lovable losers, boy-men victimized by their own enthusiasm. They come off instead as pathetic jerks, the incarnation of that fool caught throwing snowballs at a New York Jets game.
Damon Wayans is the funniest of the film's three stars, but his character--the arrogant, selfish Utah Jazz superstar Lewis Scott--is as unappealing as the kidnappers. On the court, he's rude and condescending to his teammates; in captivity, he's rude and condescending to his captors. The idea that by getting to know one another under duress, the star and the fans would gain humanity and IQ points, respectively, is a conceit of the script that the actors can't execute.
The movie was shot in Boston, with many scenes taking place in the famed Boston Garden, and features off-court cameos by former Celtics stars Larry Bird, Bill Walton and Bob Cousy. But the basketball sequences are so badly choreographed and edited that they don't resemble a pickup game at the Y, let alone an NBA championship.
The funniest thing about "Celtic Pride" is in the production notes, where the filmmakers, revealing their contempt for sports fans, discuss the appeal of the story. De Cerchio says the cool thing was that the more they "played situations for real, the funnier they became." Apatow suggests that though most fans wouldn't kidnap an opponent, "they've all thought about it." And executive producer Charles J.D. Schlissel says the story "is about the everyday people that go to see these sporting events."
In other words, sports fans are morons, the lot of them. We'll see. Sports fans are also the only conceivable audience for the movie, as well. If they like what they see, they deserve what they get.
Celtic Pride, 1996. PG-13, for language and an abundance of crude humor. A Roger Birnbaum Production, released by Hollywood/Caravan Pictures. Director Tom De Cerchio. Producer Roger Birnbaum. Screenplay Judd Apatow. Cinematography Oliver Wood. Editor Hubert de la Bouillerie. Production designer Stephen Marsh. Costumes Mary Claire Hannan. Music Basil Poledouris. Art director Keith Neely. Set designer Al Manzer. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes. Daniel Stern as Mike O'Hara. Dan Aykroyd as Jimmy Flaherty. Damon Wayans as Lewis Scott. Christopher McDonald as Coach Williams.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times