***1/2 (out of 5)
February 29, 2008
Will Ferrell as JACKIE MOON
Woody Harrelson as MONIX
Andre Benjamin as CLARENCE “COFFEE” BLACK
Maura Tierney as LYNN
Andrew Daly as DICK PEPPERFIELD
Will Arnett as LOU REDWOOD
Andy Richter as BOBBY DEE
Studio: New Line Cinema
Directed by: Kent Alterman
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Will Ferrell in short shorts. Isn’t that enough to inspire you to see the movie “Semi-Pro”? Not enough, well, what if you consider it as a period piece or a costume drama. After all, it takes place in the past, and the wardrobe is simply faaaaabulous!
By now, you should know what you’re getting into with a Will Ferrell movie. It’s not too often that he doesn’t something respectable, like “Stranger Than Fiction.” Rather, most of his work on the silver screen has been utterly unrespectable, and that’s what Will Ferrell fans have grown to expect from the man.
In “Semi-Pro,” Ferrell plays the owner of the American Basketball Association’s bottom-ranked team, the Flint Tropics. But the character of Jackie Moon isn’t just the owner. He’s the coach and the star player as well. He’s also the only guy on the team with an authentic Afro, Ferrell told a gaggle of press in Columbus, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
Jackie Moon’s head is on the chopping block. The ABA has received an offer from the NBA to merge the league. However, only the top four teams in the ABA will be welcomed into the NBA. The rest will be dissolved. Moon realizes that he has one chance to survive in basketball history, and that’s to finish the season in at least fourth place.
Over the past five or ten years, we’ve grown weary of the inspirational sports movie. There was even a spoof of these films last fall called “The Comebacks,” but that wasn’t very good. In fact, “Semi-Pro” does a better job spoofing the genre as a whole while giving plenty of room for Will Ferrell to go completely nuts on screen.
Like Ferrell’s other sports movies, “Semi-Pro” spends much of its time making fun of the game, the fashions and sometimes the fans. But it’s all in good fun. In fact, the biggest stumbling blocks that the film faces is when it actually tries to tell a real story (mostly shouldered by Woody Harrelson’s straight-man character). Fortunately, though, the film quickly devolves into juvenile humor, which is when it shines.
There was some rumbling that the studio might recut this film to be PG-13, but fortunately that idea disappeared. “Semi-Pro” is presented in theaters in its full R-rated glory. Hopefully the unsoftened humor will still be enjoyed by the audience and not rejected like the similarly funny “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.”
“Semi-Pro” is a funny movie, but it’s not nearly as funny as Ferrell’s earlier films like “Blades of Glory” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” However, a critic friend of mine has pointed out, this is probably the first time since “Anchorman” that Ferrell has so immersed himself in a character.
There’s a nice bonus along with “Semi-Pro,” and that is Ferrell’s hyperactive publicity stunts for the film, which comes in the form of the web site and college tour “Get Funny or Die.” Not only has Jackie Moon shown up on television in everything from Old Spice commercials to a new report on CNBC, he’s also prominent on FunnyOrDie.com, where some truly hilarious short films reside.
The bottom line with “Semi-Pro” is that it’s a funny enough Will Ferrell movie to make it a hit with his fans. It’s not the best one around, but it should stave you off until “Step Brothers” comes out this summer.