Eddie comes from an early Technicolor masterpiece by George Marshall, The Goldwyn Follies (written by Ben Hecht, photographed by Gregg Toland, choreographed by George Balanchine, with songs by George & Ira Gershwin, starring Adolphe Menjou, Vera Zorina, The Ritz Brothers, Kenny Baker, Edgar Bergen, Helen Jepson and Jerome Cowan), in which a studio head (Menjou) leads an average American girl around the lot to get her opinion of everything.
Steve Rash has a fan (Whoopi Goldberg) raised to the position of Knicks head coach by their new cowboy owner (Frank Langella). He goes one step farther and has real NBA stars as his actors. Now, opera singers are required to act, and those who cannot can be rendered passable by skillful direction. Under no circumstances is a professional ballplayer expected to act, except when protesting a referee’s decision, although you wouldn’t be surprised if some of them could. Rash may have been at the Hollywood Bowl a few years earlier when a guest conductor made the Los Angeles Philharmonic play more slowly than normal, and so educed the first music heard there in some time. That’s how Rash obtains serviceable performances from the ballplayers, by slowing the film’s tempo markedly, making everything look easy. Whoopi Goldberg is able to handle this very professionally, though an impression remains at moments of a comedienne in a time warp. Frank Langella has not much to do, but it’s a pivotal and not ungrateful part. Dennis Farina as the villain is villainous. It’s by Hollywood Pictures, so the ending is foozled somewhat, but who cares? Another rewrite might have saved the day, who knows?
Rash’s technique only misses one trick by my reckoning. The script sets up Olden Polynice at the free throw line giving a precise definition of a black hole for comic effect, and it seems to me that for once Rash’s inspiration fails him so that the gag is not brought off properly, but he has so many irons in the fire it also seems unnecessary to comment on it except to point out how careful his direction is as a rule.
The second theme is a New Hollywood complaint against stars who are paid so highly that they no longer take direction. Finally, the idea of selling the franchise and moving it elsewhere is so hot a topic for comedy that all one need do is note the prescience of Eddie, which foresaw that Michael Eisner would sell the Angels after they won the World Series (they’re still in Anaheim, though Anaheim Stadium is now Edison Field).