Semi-Pro (2008) dir. Kent Alterman
Starring: Will Ferrall, Woody Harrelson, Andre Benjamin, Maura Tierney
Will Ferrell once again dips into the well of his favourite topics - the 1970’s and popular sports – to create another comic vehicle for himself. This time its ABA basketball where he plays Jackie Moon – a player/owner/impresario who desires to join the NBA to make his teammates’ dreams come true. “Semi-Pro” is a lesser hybrid of “Anchorman”, “Talledega Nights” and “Blades of Glory”. While the film fails to generate laughs, the mere fact Will Ferrell is in it makes it worth a look.
Will Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, owner/player for the Flint Tropics, a semi-professional basketball team located in Flint Michigan. It’s a pathetic league with barely enough fans in the stands to pay the players’ salaries. Moon is a better showman than he is a player and he puts his enthusiasm for the team into his elaborate publicity stunts. Jackie’s dream comes true when he finds out the ABA will merge with the NBA – unfortunately only top 4 teams will be taken over. Jackie employs the help of the washed up former NBA player Monix (Woody Harrleson) to help his team go from last to fourth.
The filmmakers, writers, and actors all try their best, put on their funny costumes and say their funny jokes, but very few of the gags hit their mark. Comedy is the toughest genre and on paper, “Semi-Pro” likely appeared as good “Anchorman” or “Talladega Nights”. Unfortunately it’s no where near the class of those two films. Structurally they’re the same film – another exploitation of the sport genre - but the magic touch of comedy just fails to strike.
It's not without merit though. Without specific reference, the mere fact the film is set in Flint Michigan, is an inspired decision. As most know Flint was once a thriving industrial city in the 1970’s, which fell upon hard times when the automakers left for abroad. Some may see the setting as in bad taste – using the plight of Flint as a gag - but I found the death of the enthusiastic ABA league a tragic ironic metaphor for the death of American working class industry - seriously.
The Will Ferrell comedies are always hit and miss – particularly the above-mentioned titles. But the one thing they have in common is that they all have increased in popularity since their initial release. Why is that? The Will Ferrell brand is hardly the stuff of intellectual subtext requiring multiple viewings to sink in. The expectations never change on his films, yet with each of the above – including “Old School” – they seemed to be funnier the second and third times around.
Will “Semi-Pro” increase in value with age? I’m sure it will. A similar comment from a reader was made about the unfunny and childish “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”. That film is no classic as of yet, but give both of them five more years and I suspect we’ll be singing a different tune.
“Semi-Pro” is now available on DVD from Alliance Films in Canada and New Line Home Entertainment in the U.S.