"Semi-Pro" is semi-funny
Will Ferrell's basketball comedy isn't a complete air ball, but it does commit a few fouls.

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."
Reviewed by: adam
12 Comment(s)
Shea said...
Yes...Will is your father and I am your sister.

From the first time I saw this trailer I knew I wasn't going to see it. I was thinking how all the great comedians of our day stick the same old things they are comfortable with. Will...has the same shirtless jokes, facial expressions, and characters in every movie...EVERY MOVIE. But hey...I am not saying that is bad I am just saying it makes me tired.

Another example...just saw Mike Myers new movie trailer. might as well be a character from Powers. Same voice, same doc evil facial expressions. I mean it was funny...but nothing new. Oh...the midget jokes keep coming. OH! and the freaking mole joke was in it. COME ON!

The true greats are Jim Carrey, Steve Carrel, and Ryan Reynolds(did I just say Ryan Reynolds)...i dont know why i said his name but I keep thinking of that bathtub scene in Amittyville Horror(did i just use this movie as a reference too?)

I am sure this debate will continue so I am going to stop for now before I start using Mr. Mom and Matinee as examples.
Josh said...
While this one's not terrible, it's not terribly great either. The overall feeling I had walking out of this one was "He's gone back to the well too many times." He should take a page from the great Bill Murray and try to change it up a bit every once in a while.
Andy said...
I've never left a Will Ferrell movie satisfied. I haven't seen one since Anchorman and hopefully it will be my last. They are all the same movie.
Adam said...
Yea Josh, I would agree - definitely.

"Matinee" - MAN That movie was awesome as I recall, though I haven't seen it in 15 years probably... God that makes me feel so old. I wish someone would just buy that for me ha.

Step-Brothers looks really funny though, as Adam McKay is involved of course and no one writes for Ferrell the way he does.

And yea, "The Love Guru" was very awkward to watch... Justin Timberlake looked like the best part of that film... and that's awkward.
Nick said...
I have to disagree with you, Adam, on one point (and one on Shea's comment, as well)... Anchorman is not his best work... it's his SECOND best. His *best* work was Stranger than Fiction... which, Shea, is not the same character from all his other movies.

Seriously... if y'all haven't seen Stranger than Fiction, go see it. Excellent movie.
Shea said...
Yeah...i here you on that one Nick. Never saw it.
martha said...
YES... i was hoping someone would mention stranger than fiction. definitely a different role for ferrel, and i think he did a fabulous job. i loved that movie.

also... if you want to see him doing something different, check out winter solstice with zooey deschanel and ed harris... i really liked it, and it was a totally different role for ferrel. i hope he branches out more often... 'cause this one doesn't look the least bit funny to me, and i thought talladega nights sorta sucked, too.
Shea said...
He was also in some Woody Allen movies too. At least one...that might be worth looking into for the diversity of Will.
Adam said...
Oh I love Stranger than Fiction, but I don't even consider it here - I mean, we're talking about Will Ferrell's roots as a comedic actor, and basically I'm saying Anchorman is as funny as he'll ever be - I don't really care about his depth as an actor, I'm just saying he'll never be as funny as he was there...

A great movie though, no doubt.
Nick said...
martha: I'd heard of winter solstice, but haven't seen it yet. I heard it's pretty different for him there, too, yeah.

I thought talladega nights was pushing the brand of humor a bit. There were parts that were funny, but it really pushed the limit. Anchorman, though, was great. Though I liked Steve Carell in that movie a lot. "I love lamp!"
martha said...
nick... definitely check out winter solstice. totally different... plus, who doesn't love zooey? i have a bit of a girl crush on her, m'self. it's a good one.
Nick said...
I love Zooey. I have three major actress crushes (as far as I know)... Scarlett Johansson, Zooey Deschanel, and Natalie Portman.

I love Zooey's eyes the most... she has beautiful eyes.