The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh is categorized as a fantasy, and its premise is that Pittsburgh has a major league basketball team that has a chance to start winning its games. After you accept that fantasy, you have to buy into the idea that a major league franchise can be owned and operated by someone with limited mental ability. OK, maybe the first two aren’t that impossible to accept, but now the main story line must be considered. The current team, although very talented does not play well together. The 14-year-old water boy comes up with the solution. Since the superstar is a Pisces, he suggests replacing the rest of the players with local ones who are also born under the astrological sign of Pisces, the fish. He believes that the team will then be able to play in harmony. Then this water boy finds an astrologer to help fine-tune the harmony created from the common astrological signs the players share. It’s a fun premise for a fantasy film, but even a lighthearted movie has the responsibility to entertain.
Basketball fans who appreciate great players may enjoy watching some of the stars of the game from the late 70s who are in the film. Julius Erving played the part of Moses Guthrie, the team’s superstar. His acting was much better than the script he was given. Mr. Erving was surrounded with a star-studded cast, including Flip Wilson, Jonathan Winters, and Stockard Channing. It’s a shame that the final product didn’t take advantage of their talents.
Most movie fans appreciate good story lines, character development, and smart dialogue. Movie fans are not going to be thrilled with the 102 minutes spent waiting for a piece of cinematic magic to make them feel that it was a good decision to sit down and experience this work of art.
The movie was filmed mostly in the now razed Civic Arena with a few scenes done in front of the Garden Theatre on the North Side, and a few other area locations around town. Near the end of the film, numerous minutes of viewing time are devoted to a speeding car racing through downtown Pittsburgh to get to the big game and save the day. Early in this hectic race-to-the-arena footage, the vehicle passes a neon sign for Kapple’s Jewelry Store that was located on Liberty Avenue near the intersection with Fifth Avenue. About five minutes later while still speeding to get to the game, the car passes the same sign. You don’t see this type of gaffe in Bond films.
The soundtrack includes some well-known talent including The Four Tops and The Spinners. A note of interest for Pittsburghers is Phyllis Hyman’s rendition of Magic Mona. Phyllis spent most of her early years in the South Hills region of Pittsburgh before moving on to New York City to pursue her career. If you enjoy great soundtracks, hook a DVD of The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh and start listening. You will be in for a treat.
The late mayor of Pittsburgh Richard Caliguiri has a cameo in the film. Sean Miller, Pittsburgh native and former University of Pittsburgh basketball player, is also seen on the screen for a few seconds showing off the ball-handling skills he possessed as a young boy.
While I enjoyed seeing Richard Caliguiri and Sean Miller and hearing Phyllis Hyman’s beautiful voice, I wish they were part of a film I could watch again. This fish is strictly a catch and release.