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Celtic Pride

You've seen these guys around -- Mike, a guy pushing 50, in a bar, or Jimmy, walking through a mall with his wife and kids. They wear $100 Dallas Cowboys jerseys with Troy Aikman's name and number on their backs, and you think: Grown men. Pathetic.

Well, yes, a little. The accomplishment of Celtic Pride is to render Mike (Daniel Stern) and Jimmy (Dan Aykroyd) funny, without making that much fun of them.

The film wants to be nothing more than commercial. But it's sharp-eyed and keen-eared. And although it puts a stethoscope on a throbbing tumor of pathology -- the American obsession with sports --it's not really recommending that we worry that much about its diagnosis. At least not until after the game.

When Mike's wife re-issues her 15-years-old threat to divorce him because she's tired of his being in a good mood when the Boston Celtics win and a bad one when they lose, the exasperated Mike replies with something along the lines of, "Well, what do you expect?"

Mike's an elementary-school gym teacher who desperately loves all sports, but basketball above all. He was not good enough to play past high school, and that still hurts.

He's been pair-bonded since boyhood with Jimmy, a not-so-swift plumber who occupies every brain cell he can command with sports statistics and converts every disposable dollar into sports memorabilia.

They are dying inside because the Celts are at Game 6 of the NBA finals and their lights are being shot out by Lewis Scott (Damon Wayans) of the Utah Jazz.

Lewis, who seems to be patterned after Charles Barkley, has a rep as a "selfish" player. He makes as many TV commercials as his waking hours allow, drives the Jazz coach crazy by skipping practice and was last known to have passed the ball to a teammate in junior high school.

After Lewis absolutely kills the Celts in Game 6, Mike and Jimmy decide that something must be done to keep the guy off the court for Game 7.

When alerted that Lewis is partying in a Boston club. Mike and Jerry go there, gulp down their rising gorge and pretend to be the "only white Irish guys in Boston who hate the Celtics."

Their intent is merely to get Lewis drunk enough to affect his play in Game 7.

Very drunk Lewis gets. But Jimmy and Mike get just as drunk. And when everybody wakes up in Jimmy's apartment, the get-him-drunk plan has escalated into something more consequential.

Celtic Pride is from the Disney factory. There is a formula which much be obeyed. Warm-fuzzies must march in toward the end. Screenwriter Judd Apatow accepts his strictures and even manages to have a little fun with them.

He and Colin Quinn, who shares a story credit with Apatow, actually sneak a few subtly satiric tweaks of the inspirational-sports-story template past Disney.

Stern and Aykroyd do good jobs at keeping their characters appealing despite their doltishness. Wayans is nastily adept at playing with his tormentors' minds.

This was directed -- his first feature -- by Tom De Cerchio, who has done commercials. He keeps this moving along nicely. The basketball sequences aren't as bracing as those in, say, Blue Chips. However, not surprisingly, De Cerchio's parodies of Lewis' commercials, especially his Nike spot, are dead-on.

This man not only makes product placements, but he also can make them a positive part of the piece. Does De Cerchio have a future at Disney or what?