Semi-Pro [DVD]

semipro

By Adam Frazier

If there’s one thing that can be said for my generation, it is that we simply love anything Will Ferrell lays his comedic hands on. Growing up we were introduced to his antics on Saturday Night Live where he created several memorable characters that spun off into feature films like “Night at the Roxbury” and “Superstar.”

Ferrell’s breakout really came in 2003 when he, along with an all-star cast, made “Old School.” Soon after leaving SNL, Ferrell’s legacy was built with “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” which is arguably his best work.

Will Ferrell has taken the success of his Ron Burgundy character and modified it in his proceeding films, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and the sports comedy, “Blades of Glory.”

Now Ferrell takes that template back to the ‘70s to put on an afro and some basketball shorts as Jackie Moon in “Semi-Pro,” a film that fails to shine and lacks the persistent hilarity of Ferrell’s other films.

“Semi-Pro” is the story of Jackie Moon (Ferrell), owner, coach, promoter and player of the Flint, Michigan Tropics, which is a part of the American Basketball Association (ABA). Now this is based on some actual truth, spoofing the 1976 merger between the ABA and the NBA. Here the commissioners of both leagues have decided that the top 4 teams will merge with the NBA, which sends Jackie Moon into action.

The problem is, Jackie Moon isn’t much of an X’s and O’s guy, and he lacks the true motivational skill to bring his team to the top. So, after trading a washing machine in the locker room, the Flint Tropics recruit Monix (Woody Harrelson), an ex-NBA player with a championship ring and bad knees.

Now Jackie Moon must show his talent as a promoter to bring fans to the Flint Fairgrounds Coliseum in order to show the NBA that they have a fan base worthy of merging.

That’s the basic idea – though the story really means nothing in the overall scheme of things. Basically, Ferrell is up to his same old tricks here, pulling his ego-tripping, delusional man-child shtick and I must say, it’s showing its age here. Obviously people love Will Ferrell because he in himself is a character and naturally funny, but “Semi-Pro” lacks the inspiration and strong characters that made “Anchorman” an instant classic.

The supporting cast is weak and awkward at best. Harrelson’s role is likeable enough, but also reminiscent of his own sports comedy, the bowling epic “Kingpin.” The rest of the basketball team struggles to get laughs, and generally their comedic skill is right up their with their floundering basketball abilities.

Supporting actors Will Arnett (Arrested Development) and Andrew Daly (Mad TV) are perhaps the only other characters in the film that truly make us laugh. As the Flint Tropics radio broadcasting team, these two provide plenty of banter between each other (when not smoking and drinking on the job) to keep us laughing.

“Semi-Pro” relies heavily on silly sight gags and lacks a focused story. It unfortunately falls in-between the gap of being a strong comedic story and an outlandish collection of situational sketch humor, which is where films like “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights” break through.

Finally, I will say this – “Semi-Pro” could have been a great Will Ferrell movie. One of its biggest faults is the writing, by screenwriter Scot Armstrong, who has written “Starsky and Hutch,” “School for Scoundrels” and “The Heartbreak Kid” among other comedies. As the writer of “Old School,” you might think Armstrong was primed to write a Ferrell vehicle, but it appears he’s lost the touch.

Then the biggest fault is its direction. This is Kent Alterman’s directorial debut. While primarily an executive producer, I guess someone trusted him to make this basketball comedy. If Adam McKay (writer of “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights”) could have worked with friend and co-writer Ferrell on this film, I think it really could have shined – instead of being a derivative watered-down disappointment.

Overall, “Semi-Pro” has bits of hilarity tucked within it’s muddled 90-minute running time. If you’re a Will Ferrell fanatic, you’ll find plenty to laugh at during this movie. If not, maybe just save your money for his upcoming summer release, “Step-Brothers.”

Extras

Some behind-the-scenes featurettes, Making-of… nothing special.