February 26, 2008 by  

Semi-Pro


Semi-Pro

Basketball player Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell) celebrates a victory in "Semi-Pro."

Starring: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin
Directed by: Kent Alterman (debut)
Written by: Scot Armstrong (“Old School”)

Unless you sleep, eat, drink, and dream Will Ferrell, “Semi-Pro” is one of his comedies you’d be better off letting slip through the cracks.

Sure, there will always be this unattractiveness about Ferrell that is just too darn charming to ignore, but as a basketball player from the ’70s, there not much to show off other than a few one-liners that revolve around things like afros, short shorts, and wrestling bears. There’s only so much you can take of Ferrell when he’s all over the place.

Starring in his fourth sports comedy (his others were “Kicking and Screaming,” “Talladega Nights,” and “Blades of Glory”), Ferrell dons a basketball jersey and speedos to play Jackie Moon, a player/coach/owner/promoter for the fictional Flint Tropics. The Tropics are the team dead last in the now defunct ABA league of the late 60’s and early 70’s. (Jackie’s fame came when he recorded a disco hit called “Love Me Sexy” and used the money to purchase the team).

In real sports history, the ABA merged four teams with the National Basketball Association (NBA) to create what we now know today as the official professional basketball league. This is where “Semi-Pro” steps in to add a little aqua blue and orange to the mix. Because not all the teams of the ABA will be absorbed by the NBA, Moon must lead the Tropics to earn at least a fourth place ranking so they can be chosen to continue their B-ball careers.

It’s starts with the injection of aging basketball legend Ed Monnix (Wood Harrelson, who hasn’t played basketball on film since “White Men Can’t Jump”) into the Tropics’ sad sack of cliché misfits. The roster consists of no memorable characters, including actor/singer André Benjamin, who plays Clarence “Coffee” Black, the most talented ball player on the team.

Harrelson, who has proven he has the dark comedic chops in films like 1996’s “Kingpin” fails to produce anything other than a washed up sidekick role to Ferrell’s free-for-all. A secondary storyline between Monnix and his estranged ex-wife (played by Maura Tierney) crashes and burns from the onset with little material to work from.

Ferrell, who has been one of the more successful “Saturday Night Live” alum to make it into the film industry, has placed himself in one of those positions where it’s either hit or miss for what he has to offer the comedy genre. The fact that he is always more enjoyable in small doses (“Wedding Crashers”) should tell him something. Full-out barrages of nonsense may have worked in skits, but in feature films one can only take so much. In “Semi-Pro” Ferrell throws his fair share of temper  tantrums and, like when infants do the same, none of them are as cute or entertaining as they would like you to believe.

Grade: D

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