With “Semi-Pro” Will Ferrell returns to the genre that he has helped to revive: the sports comedy. Ferrell also has “Blades of Glory,” “Talladega Nights” and “Kicking and Screaming” under his belt. “Semi-Pro” follows the formula laid out by these other films and puts Ferrell in outlandish situation after outlandish situation, the only difference being it is R rating. To borrow a cliché from the world of sports, Ferrell knocks this one out of the park. again.
The year is 1976 and Will Ferrell is Jackie Moon, the owner, head coach, chief promoter and power forward of the American Basketball Association’s Flint Tropics.
The Tropics are among the worst teams in the ABA and, despite Moon’s best efforts, there are always more then a few empty seats at their home games. How bad is it? Think Montreal Expos circa 2003. Moon puts everything he has into his team, which he purchased with the money he made from his hit soul single entitled “Love Me Sexy.” Good news comes for the team when Moon receives word from the ABA commissioner (played by regular Ferrell cohort David Koechner) that four team would be absorbed by the NBA at the end of the season. The bad news is that the other teams will break up and the league will be dissolved.
It is decided that the four best teams would make the trip to the NBA and so Moon pulls out all the stops to get his team from worst to fourth. He makes a blockbuster trade for grizzled veteran and former NBA benchwarmer Ed Monix, played by Woody Harrelson.
Monix is best known for his hot temper on the court and his NBA championship ring, which he won while riding the pine with the Celtics. Word then comes down from the commissioner that the Tropics must also bring in at least 2000 fans a game in order to be considered for the NBA.
This is no easy task for Moon to pull off but he implements some creative ideas including “Jackie Moon Wrestles a Bear Night” and the 1st Annual Flint Mega Bowl.
Of course there are snags that must be over come and “Semi-Pro” doesn’t avoid the usual sport movie clichés. In some cases it even relishes them. Andre Benjamin, of Outkast fame, plays Clarence “Coffee” Black. Coffee is a young and talented superstar on the rise, but unfortunately he lacks the direction to make that next big step.
Ferrell is a comedic genius. He is often criticized for playing the same characters in his films, but every successful comedic actor has their routine that they tend to return to. Robin Williams and Jim Carrey have both played the same characters a handful of times but no one thinks less of them.
The point is that Ferrell knows what he does best and so he does it. His man-boyish charm is on full display here as the lovable loser Jackie Moon.
Woody Harrelson does a good job as the Monix, but parts of his character were left underdeveloped. His relationship with Maura Tierney’s Lyn is a prime example of this. He does provide a good ying to Ferrell’s yang and they end up playing off of each other well. Andre Benjamin turns in another solid performance.
The script again doesn’t give him much to do but his natural charisma manages to shine through. Appearances from the great Will Arnett, Andy Richter, Rob Corddry and the aforementioned Koechner complete the main cast.
The movie almost totally avoids cameos, with all these actors playing basically small parts and not just popping up for a quick cheap laugh.
First-time Director Kent Alterman does a solid job behind the lens. His camera angles are inspired, especially his choice for Moon’s free throws. Writer Scot Armstrong is a veteran at this point, having already penned 2004’s “Starsky and Hutch” and 2003’s monster hit “Old School.” He knows how to best utilize Ferrell’s unique brand of humor and that his perfectly evident here. The weaker points of his script are obvious but not many people will be going to “Semi-Pro” expecting to see “Citizen Kane.”
Fans of Ferrell’s will love “Semi-Pro” because it is vintage Will Ferrell humor. The R rating may keep some of his younger fans from seeing it but his older fans will get to revel in some creative language uses. There are some gross-out elements and some flat out dumb jokes but the Ferrell train keeps on rolling and hopefully it doesn’t stop anytime soon.
Colin McGlinchey is a third-year student majoring in elementary education. He can be reached at CM465588@wcupa.edu.