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SOCK IT TO HIM

According to a recent issue of Harper’s Bazaar, today’s hottest fashion trends include “feathers, florals, patterns, bold colors, [and] safari.” Will Ferrell, then, is a trendsetter. He’s sporting all those looks — minus feathers— in his new movie, Semi-Pro. (We figure the orange palm tree counts as both floral and safari.) Ferrell goes one better than Bazaar by bringing short shorts back to basketball. Trust us, they’re going to be bigger than Uggs. Read more about basketball, not fashion, on the following pages.

 


[dl] Movies

 


 

 

Big-Screen Hoop Dreams

Can Will Ferrell reverse the sloppylegacy of basketball films? Don’t count on it.
By Eric Celeste

 

Basketball is hard to do right on the big screen. More often than not, movies, both comedies and dramas, flub the game — even if they get the story right. So we have reason for concern about Will Ferrell’s new movie, Semi-Pro. It tells the story of a team from the now defunct 1970s American Basketball Association. To be sure, the perm Ferrell is sporting for the film is giggle-worthy. But the basketball? Well, if history is any guide, we won’t be impressed. Herewith are a dozen of our favorite good and bad hoops flicks.

 

THE MOVIE

One on One, 1977

Coach, 1978

Fast Break, 1979

THE PREMISE

A squeaky-clean high school star tries to prove he's incorruptible.

A woman is mistakenly hired to coach a high school boys' team. Whoops!

Welcome Back, Kotter star Gabe Kaplan plays a coach who recruits street ballers, including a woman who's disguised as a man, to play for his horrible college team.

THE PLAYERS

Robby Benson and Annette O'Toole

Cathy Lee Crosby and Michael Biehn (whom you'll remember as Kyle Reese from The Terminator)

Gabe Kaplan, Harold Sylvester (who was Griff on Married with Children), and New York Nets star Bernard King

OFF THE COURT

Released in the shadow of Rocky, this film sought to mix underdog achievement with a love story. How'd it do? Well, consider this tagline: "There comes a time when love stops being a ball and starts being a woman."

Before That's Incredible!, Crosby was best known for this late-night Cinemax special, a film that's best remembered for Crosby's character's decision to change clothes in her office. As Reese might say, "That's what she does. That's all she does."

This Bad News Bears of basketball was Kaplan's big-screen break after he'd gained TV popularity.

THE GAME PLAY

Whatever. Though not quite six feet tall, Benson is passable at times as a b-ball phenom. Still, his skills never really exceed pickup-game status.

Awful. Simply awful. Crosby, a former tennis star, is the film's best athlete.

Surprisingly accurate. It helps that the producers snagged both King, one of the most underappreciated NBA stars of all time, and Mavis Washington, who was an All-American basketball player for University of California-Riverside in the 1970s. Washington plays "the girl."

 


THE MOVIE

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, 1979

Teen Wolf, 1985

Hoosiers, 1986

THE PREMISE

An entire team is composed of athletes born under the astrological sign of Pisces.

A teenage werewolf helps his high school team win and becomes a celebrity - to the detriment of his relationship with his girlfriend.

A stern high school coach leads a 1950s Indiana team to an unlikely state championship.

THE PLAYERS

Julius Erving, Stockard Channing, Flip Wilson, Jonathan Winters, Meadowlark Lemon, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Michael J. Fox and, um, well, we're not sure

Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, and Dennis Hopper

OFF THE COURT

The soundtrack was notable for featuring funky songs from the Four Tops, The Tonight Show's Doc Severinsen, and others.

When Fox graduates from high school and goes on to college, guess what he becomes (besides a werewolf). He becomes Jason Bateman, the star of Teen Wolf Too.

It nabbed two Academy Award nominations, and though one was for the soundtrack, that's still impressive for a sports movie.

THE GAME PLAY

Pretty good. With Dr. J and a ton of other NBA players on board, this movie gets most of the details right.

It's so implausible that tiny Fox - who constantly looks at the ball while dribbling - could score a point, let alone win a game, that the business with the wolf almost seems like part of a documentary.

There are a few nits to pick, but they are minor quibbles. This is one of the few sports movies in which the on-court action is actually exciting.

 

 


THE MOVIE

Amazing Grace and Chuck, 1987

White Men Can't Jump, 1992

Blue Chips, 1994

THE PREMISE

A child baseball player quits his team to protest nuclear weapons, and a famous Boston Celtics basketball player joins his quest.

Two basketball hustlers join forces to double their take, only to find that their friendship is destroyed.

It takes a look at the less glamorous side of college basketball - the recruiting wars, where grown men slather over 18-year-old guys.

THE PLAYERS

Jamie Lee Curtis, Alex English, Gregory Peck, CSI star William Petersen, and the late, great Red Auerbach

Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, and Rosie Perez

Nick Nolte, Shaquille O'Neal, J.T. Walsh, Bob Cousy, Anfernee Hardaway, and Jim Boeheim

OFF THE COURT

Sort of a Field of Dreams for nuclear disarmament, this was as sanctimonious as movies come. But it was also a sign of its times - 1983's WarGames had sparked a run on nukes films.

The film was directed by Ron Shelton, who also helmed Bull Durham.

It's no coincidence that Nolte plays a Bobby Knight-like character. He studied Knight's bombastic coaching style before shooting began on the film.

THE GAME PLAY

Utterly forgettable. Fortunately, there is very little actual basketball to speak of.

The basketball sequences are overrated. Both Snipes and Harrelson appear as though they could be stripped of the ball by a seventh grader. Good slo-mo work, though.

This is among the best basketball films ever. We could have done without the game-winning alleyoop, though.

 


THE MOVIE

Basketball Diaries, 1995

He Got Game, 1998

Harvard Man, 2002

THE PREMISE

A Catholic high school star turns into a street junkie.

The personal lives and pressures of NBA stars are magnified.

A Harvard point guard gets involved with criminals and fixes a game.

THE PLAYERS

Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, and Bruno Kirby

Denzel Washington, Ray Allen, and Rosario Dawson

Adrian Grenier, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Joey Lauren Adams

OFF THE COURT

Shot just three years after DiCaprio departed Growing Pains, the movie was filmed when he still looked like a little boy. Oh, wait - he still does.

Several critics slammed the movie, suggesting that director Spike Lee let his style overtake the subject matter.

Perhaps knowing that the cast was under-qualified, the producers also cast Ray Allen - of NBA and He Got Game fame.

THE GAME PLAY

You would have to be on drugs to buy even a second of the basketball action here. Every basket in the movie appears to be a foot short - which explains why DiCaprio can dunk and why Wahlberg, who is well below the six-feet mark, is a stud rebounder.

Not bad at all. It always helps to find a basketball star (like Allen, one of the sharpest sharpshooters in NBA history) who can act, rather than the other way around.

If you were to match Grenier and Basketball Diaries' Leonardo DiCaprio against each other in a one-on-one game, who'd win? No one. Unless, that is, you were rooting for the death of basketball.