Semi-Pro is a slightly above mediocre film, at best. That said, I’ll take a mediocre Will Ferrell movie over most Hollywood attempts at comedy any day. Well, any day except for Thursday … that’s when I do my knitting.
Still, it’s time for Ferrell to stretch a bit because his latest effort is about as good as his last so-so movie, Blades of Glory. Granted, Semi-Pro had me laughing steadily at times, as did Blades, but it doesn’t have the beginning-to-end hilarious consistency as such Ferrell treasures as Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Old School. It gets by on Ferrell’s insane charms, but without him, the film would be nothing.
The film starts to the unabashedly vulgar refrains of “Love Me Sexy,” the theme song for one-hit wonder Jackie Moon (Ferrell). Jackie is owner, promoter, coach and player for the Flint Tropics, a fledgling team of the ABA. (Trivia note: The ABA was a real life basketball association formed in 1967, featuring teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets, that eventually merged with the NBA.)
Semi-Pro comes up with a fictional scenario ending for the ABA, where the four best teams in the league will merge with the NBA and get certain financial glory. The Flint Tropics, being the worst team in the league, decide to go for it anyway, trading their washing machine for Monix (Woody Harrelson) a pro has-been with a bad wig. After a touchy start with the team, Monix starts coaching them on playing hard ’til you puke, and the Tropics make a serious run at NBA glory.
Ferrell gets some good old-fashioned Ferrell laughs, including a hilarious Russian roulette sequence reminiscent of The Deer Hunter and featuring a cameo by Tim Meadows. Best of all would be the bear wresling sequence, with a cameo by Kristen Wiig, where Jackie pisses off a docile bear by smacking it one too many times in the head. The bear eventually escapes, with Jackie telling his basketball audience to panic and shield themselves with small children because bears love the tender meat.
Hell, I even laughed at a fur coat-wearing Ferrell singing along to “Get the Funk Out of My Face” while driving his car. The guy can make even terrible movies (like Bewitched) intermittently tolerable because his shtick is so uniquely bizarre. Those who were tired of the Ferrell routine right out of the gate, and I know there are a number of you because you accost me in public, will have no reason to convert with Semi-Pro. It’s just more of that Ferrell thing.
One of the problems with the film—in fact, the main problem—is the Harrelson character. He gets a thankless subplot where he’s trying to woo his ex-flame, played by Maura Tierney, and it’s a complete waste of time. Harrelson’s main role in this movie is to mope, which is a shame because, as he proved with Kingpin, he has good comedic chops. Those chops are not on display in Semi-Pro.
On the plus side, this is an R-rated comedy, so Ferrell gets to unleash all sorts of demented, obscene rants. There’s just something so great about Ferrell saying stuff like “cocksucker.” Maybe it’s because his shtick is kind of childish, and hearing those words out of his otherwise gentle persona is just shocking.
So, I liked this Ferrell vehicle just fine but, I must admit, the trailer for his next film is funnier than this movie. Step Brothers, starring Ferrell and John C. Reilly, has more laughs in its trailer than most Hollywood comedies do in their entire running time. You don’t believe me? Watch the trailer … the bunk bed gag rules.
I’m talking about the trailer for Ferrell’s next movie in the review for his current movie, a sure sign that I’m ready to move on and see something new from the man.