Movie News & Reviews

If the Cats' season were a movie ...

Fade In: CAPTION: "South Bend, Ind., March 2009"

In a basketball arena, the game clock goes to 00:00.

The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame are jubilant, piling on one another in celebration of a quarterfinal victory in the NIT tournament.

Camera pans to the other bench, where the Kentucky Wildcats, in blue uniforms, wear the dejection of a team unaccustomed to this position: playing in the lowly NIT and then losing to Notre Dame, a football school.

At the end of the bench, the coach, Billy Gillispie, seems strangely serene, detached.

CROSS-FADE TO BLACK, CUT TO: CAPTION: "Lexington, Ky., April 2009"

A news conference, where almost everything is the University of Kentucky's shade of blue. Pan to a table at the front of the room with three men — Mitch Barnhart, John Calipari and Lee Todd, all in dark suits and blue ties.

Barnhart leans into his microphone.

BARNHART: "I'm very proud and excited to announce John Calipari has agreed to become the men's basketball coach at the University of Kentucky."

FADE TO CREDITS

And who should be in those credits?

Without a doubt, the UK men's basketball team has had a storybook, dare we say cinematic season in 2009-10. Charismatic coach John Calipari led the team to a 32-2 record in the regular season, helped by marquee stars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. There's been drama on and off the court, but essentially it is the story of the revival of a team that in many ways defines its home state.

That's our pitch.

The ending has not been written — as Weekender went to press Thursday morning, Cal's Cats, with a No. 1 seed in the East region, had yet to tip off their opening round game in the NCAA tournament.

But we certainly can start to cast this epic.

So, we put the question to ourselves at Weekender Central and our readers through Twitter and Facebook.

Here's how it might look. (And Holly wood, if you're listening, we want some credit if this thing happens.)

OUR DREAM CAST

THE COACH AND HIS WIFE

Coach John Calipari: Emmy winner Alec Baldwin was our first thought. Yes, his forte has been comedy on 30 Rock, and Cal has had his moments of humor, starting with making funny faces at photographers at that introductory press conference. But Baldwin brings serious acting chops to the table, too — he played Captain Ellerby in the 2006 Oscar winner for best picture, The Departed. And he has the Coach Cal look (the hair!) and demeanor. We can easily see Alec giving the refs grief.

Ellen Calipari: Coach Cal's wife is not in the limelight much, but this is a movie, so we will be in the Calipari home through the ups and downs. A number of lauded actors were suggested, including Julia Roberts. But we're kinda liking this idea: The first lady of Kentucky basketball, Ashley Judd, plays the coach's wife.

THE PLAYERS

We have to say that superstar basketball players pose casting challenges because of their size and athletic skills. Go put together the Herald-Leader's life-size DeMarcus Cousins poster if you doubt this. So coming up with actors to play these guys might involve auditioning and coming up with some real unknowns. But if we had to pull names out of a hat ...

John Wall: What more could The Great Wall want out of 2010? It's been a season for the ages, including UK scoring records, SEC Player of the Year honors, SEC regular season and tournament championships, a possible NCAA crown and potentially becoming the No. 1 NBA draft pick — although you don't have to go, John. How about being portrayed by an actor from The Hurt Locker, the Oscar winner for best picture? We're talking co-star Anthony Mackie, who has some sports-movie cred, having played one of the lead gridiron stars in We Are Marshall.

DeMarcus Cousins: Readers liked one guy in particular for this role, and he isn't a movie star — yet. But listen, LeBron, ol' buddy, Michael Jordan has done it. Shaq has done it. We can totally see you making a stunning acting debut that'll make Space Jam and Kazaam — M.J. and Shaq's movies, in case you haven't trolled the 99-cent bin lately — look like, well, Space Jam and Kazaam. But LeBron, King James ... Big Cuz is a role of depth and power. Think Oscar. Also, with LeBron, there's no need to cast a double to re-create scenes like that buzzer-beater against Mississippi State.

Patrick Patterson: Look at the similarities between Pat-squared and Derek Luke. It fits. Not only that, but he comes with basketball-movie cred, having played — ahem! — against the Cats as Texas Western star Bobby Joe Hill in Glory Road.

THE SUPERFAN

Ashley Judd: A little weird, we know, since we've cast her as the coach's wife. But we cannot have a UK basketball movie without appearances by the Cats' movie-star, Harvard-educated fan. And Ash, we kinda hope you like the casting choice: reigning best actress Sandra Bullock.

ON THE SIDELINES

Dick Vitale: We gotta have a few declarations of "Diaper dandies, Bay-beeeee!" This is the sort of role often given to the person for an "as himself" credit, and we're going to go with that. Try as we might, even with suggestions like Fred Willard and Joe Pesci, we cannot imagine who could replicate Dicky V.'s persona.

Tom Leach: Vitale is a cameo, but in sports movies, you often have that steady voice narrating the season, and in Kentucky's case, that has to be UK radio play-by-play man Leach, who also conducts the post-game interviews with Cal and his radio call-in show. How about a movie star with broadcasting, voice-over work, hoops and Kentucky in his blood: George Clooney?

THE ADMINISTRATION

Lee T. Todd Jr.: Dana Carvey recently revised his President George H.W. Bush impression for a Funny or Die video with Saturday Night Live's other presidential impersonators — further highlighting how awful Fred Armisen's Obama is, but that's another story — and you know who it reminded us of? Dr. Todd himself.

Mitch Barnhart: It's not a name most people will recognize, but a reader's suggestion of Andy Buckley, who plays David Wallace on The Office, initially seemed sort of out-of-the-blue until looking at his photo. The resemblance is there, as is an athletic background: playing golf for Stanford. Plus, David Wallace just got laid off, so Buckley could use the work.

THE FORMER COACHES

Billy Gillispie: Oh, you kids. We basically got two suggestions for the deposed coach, no doubt inspired by his travails with the law after being fired: 1. Every recent male celeb who has had a notable mug shot, e.g., Nick Nolte, Charlie Sheen. 2. Gary Sinise. We'll take the star of CSI: NY.

Rick Pitino: Once again, there were some entertaining suggestions (Scott Baio? Really?). But Rick really ought to be flattered with the crowd favorite: Al Pacino. Flattered, unless the choice is because of some of the less-than-savory characters he's played. Then again, the inspiration could come from his relationship with basketball in Kentucky: "Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in."

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