Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review: "Semi-Pro" is an Uneven Comedy (Happy B'day, Will Ferrell)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 11 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

Semi-Pro (2008)
Running time: 90 minutes (1 hour, 30 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some sexual content
DIRECTOR: Kent Alterman
WRITER: Scot Armstrong
PRODUCER: Jimmy Miller
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Shane Hurlbut (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Debra Neil-Fisher


Starring: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin, Maura Tierney, Andrew Daly, Andy Richter, David Koechner, Rob Corddry, Matt Walsh, Jackie Earle Haley, DeRay Davis, Josh Braaten, Jay Phillips, Peter Cornell, and Patti LaBelle

When a comic actor hits his stride as a box office star and has a string of huge successes, he has also reached a place where everything he does afterwards will be judged by this peak. It seems as if Eddie Murphy is forever being judged by his legendary time on “Saturday Night Live,” and by his trio of early 80’s hit films: 48 Hrs., Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop. Fans and critics still think Murphy should go back to being what they think he was back then.

Will Ferrell, also the owner of a legendary SNL run, became an A-list hit-making comedy monster with a co-starring role in Old School, before having something for which most actors would sell their souls – a family hit (and a Christmas one at that) with Elf. But after a string of hit movies, will Semi-Pro be looked upon as a misfire?

It shouldn’t. Semi-Pro is quite funny, and is rich in Ferrell’s brand of tomfoolery, which will appeal to Ferrell’s fans. Semi-Pro just feels like something that could have been much better.

Set in Flint, Michigan in 1976, Semi-Pro follows the wacky exploits of Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell), who became a one-hit wonder with his groovy disco song, “Love Me Sexy.” Moon used the profits from his chart-topping success to achieve his dream of owning a basketball team. However, his Flint Michigan Tropics are the worst team in the ABA (American Basketball Association), and the league is about to fold and merge its four best teams with the NBA (National Basketball Association). The Tropics are not one of those four teams.

Now, Jackie is desperate to do what seems impossible for his lovable losers – win. He brings in Monix (Woody Harrelson), a former NBA champion to be the team’s new point guard, but Monix’s knees are practically ruined. Moon’s star player, Clarence “Coffee” Black (AndrĂ© Benjamin), has all-star talent, but is so self-centered that he’s stalled his career. Although he has an endless supply of wacky promotional ideas, Jackie is running out of cash, and even when they start to win, Moon and the Tropics may have already run out of time.

Like his Ron Burgundy in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Chazz Michael Michaels in Blades of Glory, Will Ferrell’s Jackie Moon is a success in his chosen field, but that is surpassed by his arrogance, conceit, and inanity, which makes for a lovable comic character. For all the laughs Ferrell’s Moon gives Semi-Pro, the film is best when it lets the other guys get in on the fun.

Watching this motley crew of sub-par basketball players, sad addicts, crazy announcers, and assorted oddballs gas and sass each other is a good time at the movies. The characters are untidy, but like the film, they feel familiar. They’re not at the top of the heap, but they aren’t necessarily losers; they’re semi-regular guys just trying to get their piece. Each character brings something good to Semi-Pro in the way he or she walks, talks, and looks, but the film spends too much time on Ferrell making goofy faces, as funny as that might be.

Semi-Pro sits somewhere between sports melodrama and parody. Ferrell sells the parody, but if only the filmmakers had allowed the supporting cast to build the melodrama. Then, Semi-Pro would be the kind of memorable comedy/drama that great sports films like Bull Durham and The Longest Yard (1974) are, and not just another funny Will Ferrell movie.

6 of 10

Sunday, March 02, 2008


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