If the filmmakers of "The Sixth Man" had cut away the bulk of its lengthy, heavy-handed sentimental scenes and quickened its comic pace, they might have had something.
As it is, this so-called "comedy" drags and flags and wears out its welcome long before it's over.
The plot is sort of "Hoosiers" meets "Ghostbusters," with television sitcom players Marlon Wayans ("The Wayans Brothers") and Kadeem Hardison ("A Different World"), respectively, as brothers Kenny and Antoine Tyler.
They grow up with a deep love of basketball and eventually become star players together on the Washington Huskies college team. Antoine grandstands too much to be a team player, but he and Kenny are a formidable pair and together they take the team from last place to a shot at the NCAA championships.
But Antoine unexpectedly dies when he has a heart attack on the court, and Kenny loses his will to compete. So, Antoine returns as a ghost and uses magical powers to help out Kenny and the team still grandstanding.
Much of what follows is special-effects driven and brings to mind the basketball comedy of Disney's 1961 "The Absent Minded Professor." Invisible Antoine flies through the air, helping his former teammates make ridiculously wild shots, and scooping the ball right out of the basket when opponents come close to scoring.
As with many slapstick comedies these days, however, the sight gags don't seem so much choreographed as merely haphazard. Wayans gets to mug and slouch and imitate Jim Carrey as he is prodded and poked by his ghostly prankster brother. And some of his antics are amusing though many more are just annoying.
There's also a subplot about Kenny falling in love with a college sports reporter (Michael Michele), who is supposed to be torn between her feelings for Kenny and her desire to break a huge story when she discovers the truth about the team's winning streak. But this story line is so weakly developed that it never feels anything but contrived.
David Paymer, one of our best character actors, gives the film a lift as the Huskies' harried coach, as does Harold Sylvester as the boys' father, but it's not enough to make any significant difference.
The real problem here is the script, by newcomers Christoper Reed and Cynthia Carle, a married couple who leave too many ideas underdeveloped. Worse, however, director Randall Miller ("Houseguest," "Class Act") lets scenes go on and on forever, which is deadly for comedy. Once the joke is played out, cut away. (At nearly two hours, the film is also far too long.)
Everyone here has talent, but they seem to lack discipline. And the result is just another in a long line of laughless assembly-line comedies that Hollywood churns out like widgets.
"The Sixth Man" is rated PG-13 for profanity, vulgarity and violence.