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Review

Predictable Ferrell movie ‘Semi-Pro’ underwhelms reviewers

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March 6, 2008

Will Ferrell has gifted audiences with some of the most deeply complex characters in film history—or just the most absurd. 

Either way, he has ensnared a nation of followers that flock in droves to see his on-screen shenanigans.  There is no reason “Semi-Pro,” Ferrell’s latest sports targeted smoking gun, should be any different. It adopts the same hit-or-miss, go for broke philosophy that has skyrocketed Mr. Ferrell from the stuffy stages of SNL to the cosmos of filmdom.   

Trying to recapture the ‘70s funk and comedic soul of “Anchorman,” “Semi-Pro” discos to the same beat in familiar plot platforms. Jackie Moon (Ferrell), owner, coach and player for the Flint Michigan Tropics ABA basketball team, finds his dreams for glory materializing when it is announced that the ABA will merge into the NBA. The catch: only four teams will be absorbed, while the rest will be dissolved. Jackie convinces the merger board to accept the top four teams, setting in motion a whirlwind of publicity to save his last-place Tropics, who begin their climb towards fourth place backed by preposterous promotional stunts and a new game plan from ex-NBA star Monix (Woody Harrelson).

Perhaps one of “Semi-Pro’s” greatest strengths comes from its ability to, at times, relentlessly mock ‘70s culture. And it starts immediately, opening with Jackie Moon’s “Love Me Sexy,” a hoarse-whispered ‘baby-making’ sex-ballad that strikes both at famous melodies like “Afternoon Delight.”

As for the rest of the film, the team throws up their own brand of comedic alley-oop, lofting up as many jokes as possible, praying that audiences will grasp at least a few and bring them down for a score. Critics will no doubt judge the movie, perhaps too harshly, on the shots that miss, but legions of loyal Ferrell fanatics will faithfully pluck out those bits that do work and remember the film for those gut-busting moments, no matter how few or far between they are.

The entire film has the unmistakable aftertaste of a night spent writing over a bottle of Scotch, punctuated with a whiskey chaser. The lingering sting of alcohol curls around dialogue probably written on a card table in between shots of Captain and Jack.

The movie plays out like the morning after. And while the hazy recollections of the night before don’t appear quite as funny as they used to through the headaches and hang overs, the cast still tries to best each other throughout their drinking game opus.

At least everyone is having a blast goofing off in front of a camera. The acting troupe relinquish their usual title and instead show their true colors: a bunch of friends making a movie for their own enjoyment that they alone find hilarious; Ferrell and company have way more fun filming than most viewers will have watching. The fourth wall is fully embraced as no audience members are invited to the private party on screen.

Ken Weigend is an alumnus of UW-River Falls. He was editor of the Student Voice during spring semester 2010.