Movie Review: The Untouchables
Featuring Derek Anderson’s thoughts on his new documentary.
Derek Anderson was a pretty damn good basketball player.
Based on what I hear, actually, Derek Anderson’s pretty good at everything he tries. So when word got around that he took the plunge into filmmaking, I was excited to see the product.
When Anthony Holt, a screenwriter and producer, contacted me and offered me a screener of his new film, I was a little hesitant to accept it. I mean, I’d gladly watch and review it, but if it was corny, I was going to be honest and put the film on blast. He understood and was totally cool with that.
A few days later, I received a copy of The Untouchables, a documentary highlighting the plight of the 1995-1996 Kentucky Wildcats, created by Derek Anderson and written by Anthony Holt.
If you already received SLAM 137 you’ve seen my first preview of the film. (If you haven’t gotten the issue yet, it’s never too late.) Given a pretty tight word count, I tried boiling down the documentary to its most essential elements:
“What did Tyrese and the ’96 Kentucky Wildcats have in common? Nothing…until he narrated The Untouchables, a fresh documentary chronicling the ’96 Cats. Featuring nine future NBA players, it’s no wonder Rick Pitino’s Wildcats won an NCAA Title. What was a wonder, though, was their chemistry. In spite of limited minutes dished out to future NBA players like Ron Mercer and Nazr Mohammed, no rifts developed. In fact, as The Untouchables testifies, the group was a band of brothers, dominating as only a group of friends could.
In interviews, some ’96ers claim their club as the greatest of all time, though some former UCLA Bruins might disagree. Either way, that UK team is certainly in the conversation. A conversation that Derek Anderson, Tony Delk and Antoine Walker play key parts in. A conversation The Untouchables brings to the screen.”
Cute, right? But definitely not enough to really go on.
To be completely honest, the documentary was good, but nowhere near great. Tyrese’s narration was pretty wack, something felt lacking and Ashley Judd could have stood to put on some nicer threads when she geared up for her interview. I joke, I joke. Still, it was cool that Ashley participated and all, her being a UK superfan, but I’m not sure Untouchables was best served by her being the opening interview in the film. It would have been a little more powerful if coach Pitino opened things up, or Antoine Walker or one of the star players from the squad.
The docu’s purpose was to ask if the ’95-96 UK team was the greatest college squad of all-time. In that regard, Anderson and Holt did a solid job, taking us through that season in an almost game-by-game fashion, showing us game film, interviews that occurred right after games and complementary interviews with players that took place recently. The docu was best served by not shoving the “best team” theme down our throats. The question is left open at the end; the answer ours to decide.
That wasn’t the best part of the docu, though. Not by a long shot. I mean, it’s fun to debate the greatness of historic teams—my people and I waste time like that constantly—but it’s even better to gain an insider’s perspective on one of those teams.
And, whether intentionally or as an accidental byproduct, that’s exactly what Untouchables delivers.
Through the memories of Antoine Walker, Walter McCarty, Tony Delk, Mark Pope, Wayne Turner, Derek Anderson and some of the other Cats, we can feel like we were on that team, like we chilled and bowled with the crew back in Lexington. Like we were the ones who lost to UMass early in the season. Like we were the ones who got back at Calipari’s UMass team later in the year with avengance. Like we were the ones who almost reached the century mark in the first half of a game against LSU. We can feel like we won a National Championship and then rode through town on a bus like returning heroes. We can feel like we’re the innocent kids who didn’t know how much their Ws meant to people, how much their accomplishments meant to people. We can feel Untouchable…if only for the duration of the documentary.
A documentary similair to those in ESPN’s current “30 For 30″ series, The Untouchables is more comparable to this year’s Kansas team than the ’95-96 UK team: its parts are stars; its whole doesn’t reflect that fall the time, though. Still, if you’re a UK fan, or just a college fan period, you should definetely catch Untouchables.
If you want to hear a little more about the docu, you’re in luck. After watching The Untouchables, I was able to catch up with Executive Producer Derek Anderson to discuss it a little bit.
SLAM: How did this project come about? How did it come to be?
Derek Anderson: First, we were just talking about our team, me and Tony Delk, Ron Mercer. We were kinda just talking. And then, we happened to look it up, like where we would consider ourselves ranked. And we looked on ESPN, and they had us ranked second best team, behind UCLA. And we were like, Wow, because when you’re playing and living it, you don’t really take thought of what someone else is thinking. But when you sit back after everyone saw what you’ve done and how you did it, we were surprised what people thought about us.
The other thing is, I played 11 years in the NBA and people still remember me playing at Kentucky. There ain’t that many Kentucky fans in the world, but everyone still remember that moment when we played at Kentucky.
SLAM: Does the team still stay in touch? You said you talked to Tony?
DA: Oh yeah. We all, we play cards with each other and everything. We still hang out with each other.
SLAM: You get a sense in the movie of how close you guys were, but how close were you in your words?
DA: We were like real family. We still talk to each other. We were beyond that. That’s why we made the documentary. That was one thing that was amazing. When I asked everybody what were some of their best memories, and everything was off the court. Wasn’t even about having 86 against LSU at half, or beating teams by 50 points. We was all remembering us just hanging out. We wrestled against each other. We went to the movies all together, bowling, I mean, everything that everybody said was the exact same thing, and that was amazing to me. To have that many dudes, 14 years removed, remembering hanging off the court.
SLAM: What are some of your favorite memories that you didn’t mention on the film?
DA: Those were it. The ones, like you said, there’d be 15 guys, maybe 13 or 14, all would go—all had to go, just because everyone just wanted to do it—to the movies. Fifteen of us going bowling—we all went bowling, though. We’d go to dinner—we went to Old Charlie’s—there would be 15 of us, like every single one of the players.
SLAM: You kind of said it already, but were you surprised at all by what the guys said their favorite memories were? Everyone’s talking about off the court stuff.
DA: Yeah, that’s it. I mean, when you watch the documentary, that’s what everyone remembers as the best time.
SLAM: How do you feel about how the film turned out?
DA: I think it went well. We did what we were supposed to do. We left something, so when people get a documentary of this, 20 years from now when people say, Who was the better team, you got people that can go back and look at it and be like, Wow, that was the greatest team that ever played. The way we beat people, we were supposed to win and we did win it. We had more all-americans, more NBA players than any other team—not only in Kentucky but in history. We did a whole lot of things that a lot of people would be proud of in Kentucky, and we’re the ones who did it, so that makes me feel real good.
SLAM: One of the interesting things about the film was that you chose to have Ashley Judd leading it off…
DA: Yeah, and she did real well. She was in it. She said her true passion was Kentucky—even though she’s a celebrity. So no matter what, her first love is Kentucky basketball.
SLAM: When you’re a player there, are you aware that you have a big fan that’s a celebrity?
DA: Nah, because when she was there, it was like, we all just hung out. You know, like she would come to the locker room; to us it was just like, This is Ashley. Everyone else is thinking, You know what? This is someone different. But not to us.
SLAM: What was the goal of the film? What do you want people to feel coming out of the theater?
DA: The dominance. To see how good one team can be, and also show why we were so good. Like its not a storyline where you say were people close together and that makes a difference. It does, if you look at how many, well Michael Jordan won, how long did it take for them to win a championship? Once he got Scottie to be there for three or four years. He had his core guys to stay there for three or four years. When Kobe and them did it, Derek Fisher, Shaq, all them guys, they were there for time, so you need some kind of cohesiveness and that’s what happened to us in college. We did something that was very unique, and that was all college guys staying together. And that’s what made this thing so special. Even if you didn’t like Kentucky, [after watching this] you’ll be like, Man, they had a good time. I see why they won.
SLAM: And like you said, everyone was into it so much, you didn’t have a problem getting anybody to talk on camera?
DA: No we had everybody. Everybody was willing to do it. It was no problem.
SLAM: Best time of everyone’s life on that team probably?
DA: Yep. (Laughs)