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Edwina Wilson (Whoopi Goldberg) alternately dispatches and drives a limousine in New York City. She also carries a major basketball "jones," coaching a kids' team and paying two grand a year for season tickets, three rows from the ceiling in the Madison Square Garden arena. Nosebleed territory. She knows the players' history and capabilities. She leaves trivia questions about the Knicks' history on her answering machine. Marv Albert may call the games in this movie, as he does in real life, but Edwina broadcasts additional color over the limo radios.
Eddie is a comedy fantasy. It has to be a fantasy. The Knicks in this movie couldn't get the ball through the hoop if they tried! Problem is, the players don't try. They're too busy cutting record deals, settling divorces, picking up fans. In short, acting like highfalutin' stars. Which is why they've been sold to a hot-shot Texan named Wild Bill (Frank Langella), who meets Eddie via a radio call-in show while riding in the back of her limousine. It's a very clever piece of writing, and this particular sequence is not unique. Eddie is full of 'em.
Yes, Cranky is a New Yorker, and I sat with a New York crowd. The entire movie audience recoiled in horror as this Texan rode his sneaker-shod stallion across the Garden floor, setting off fireworks and torching Walt Frazier's jersey in the process. Cranky's fear, at that time, was that Eddie would prove to be too New York-centric to succeed outside of the Big Apple. It must have been a concern on the producers part as well, for they have gone out of their way to sprinkle the show liberally with cameos by well-known NBA players. They licensed team names and uniforms and hired the local sportscasters. But when push comes to shove, it's all window dressing. Eddie is 1000 watts of Whoopi, and she is terrific.
Unlike the bumblers of Celtic Pride a couple of weeks back, Goldberg's character IS a living, breathing, die-by-the-standings sports fan-with-a-capital-F. In the best tradition of film-school scriptwriting classes, we are treated to a "normal person in abnormal situation" story. Winning a halftime foul shot competition, Goldberg is named Honorary Coach for a Day. The crowd eats it up. When the regular coach, a pug-ugly and nasty man played by Denis Farina walks out, Wild Bill sees a terrific PR opportunity and appoints Eddie to the vacant position. She knows she can't do it. She knows she shouldn't be doing it. But it's the ultimate Sports Fan dream, so she does.
And that's about all you need to know.
Goldberg's humor has always been best when it's shot from the hip. In Eddie she's carrying two double barrels with automatic loaders, if there is such a thing, because the gags come fast and furious. More important, they all fit together logically as the story progresses. In some other comedies, half-nude women are dropped in front of geek leads and we are subjected to lewd, crude bits. In Eddie, Goldberg walks into the Knicks shower and turns the gag on its ear.
The actual basketball sequences look pretty good. Then again, I've always been up in the nosebleed section myself and wouldn't be able to tell you if the shot-from-courtside stuff was realistic. But it looked pretty good to me.
There are one or two places in the story where preachiness or backstory slow things down. That's probably because it was piece-mealed together by too many cooks. The production worked its way through three Hollywood studios -- four writers have credit for the story and six have credit for the final screenplay -- and what was left holds its own pretty well.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Eddie, he would have paid . . .
Eddie is the funniest movie I've seen this year. Even if you don't like Goldberg's offscreen personality, give it a shot. It was delightful.
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