on May 31, 1996 by Wade Major
"Eddie" is "E.T." for the beer & pretzels crowd, a sports fan's ultimate fantasy come true and vitalized by the inimitable charms of Whoopi Goldberg as Edwina "Eddie" Franklin, an obsessive New York Nicks fan who transforms a fluke stint as "honorary coach" into the real thing only to exceed her own wildest dreams by miraculously turning the failing and undisciplined team into a legitimate contender.
   Despite the fact that three writing teams are credited with a script that does little more than rehash every "underdog" sports comedy convention since "The Bad News Bears," "Eddie" does manage to survive on its own peculiar merits, thanks primarily to Goldberg's heartfelt and charismatic performance. Her Cinderella transformation from boorish, wide-eyed fan to tough-yet-compassionate coach is at once funny, endearing and immensely credible, despite the otherwise ludicrous premise.
   Elsewhere, positive messages and touching characterizations help balance out the more outrageous moments while a seemingly endless cavalcade of cameos featuring all but a handful of NBA superstars gives the film a crucial sense of authenticity.
   Praiseworthy supporting turns include longtime character actor Richard Jenkins ("Flirting With Disaster") as the team's soft-spoken, underappreciated assistant coach and NBA veteran John Salley as an aging, Magic Johnson-like team leader. Salley's work in "Eddie," on the heels of his film debut in "Bad Boys," is especially impressive, exhibiting an uncanny vulnerability and naturalness that should guarantee him at least as long and prosperous a career on-screen as on the court.
   For director Steve Rash and producer David Permut, both of whom have had their hits and misses in recent years, "Eddie" should prove a solid and deserved success. Even non-sports fans will likely find the film's breezy charms a welcome diversion after the blistering pyrotechnics of the summer's action blockbusters. Starring Whoopi Goldberg, Frank Langella, Dennis Farina, Richard Jenkins. Directed by Steve Rash. Written by Jon Connolly & David Loucka and Eric Champnella & Keith Mitchell and Steve Zacharias & JeffBuhai from a story by Steve Zacharias & Jeff Buhai and Jon Connolly & David Loucka. Produced by David Permut and Mark Burg. A Hollywood Pictures release. Comedy. Rated PG-13. Running Time 100 min
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