Arriving at the end of another seemingly endless Easter school holiday period in which the movie offerings for discerning adults have been limited in the extreme, Semi-Pro continues the obsession Will Ferrell has with appearing in sporting satires – as if Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Blades of Glory didn’t drill home his point that occasionally there are laughs to be had at the expense of athletes.
The time is the late 70s and Ferrell is Jackie Moon, a one-hit wonder with the single ‘Love Me Sexy’ who has bought a team in the American Basketball Association. His Flint, Michigan team the ‘Flint Tropics’ seem to be a vehicle for personal excess, although Coffee Black (André Benjamin) may have the talent to make it to the NBA. When the ABA and NBA announce plans to merge and the Tropics are set to be dissolved, Moon must turn to an unlikely former NBA player to help inspire their team to keep the dream alive.
There is much to dislike in Semi-Pro, although that much can easily be discerned from the trailer and the cast list. What is more surprising is that a substantial part of the mercifully brief 82 minute running time is taken up by a subplot of personal redemption involving characters played by Woody Harrelson and the rather wonderful Maura Tierney. That this story is far more interesting than the main plot (although admittedly a little bit obvious and lacking in originality) means the ‘comedy’ of seeing Ferrell with big hair proves a distraction rather than an entertainment.
Perhaps this can be also blamed on the lack of inspiration shown in the preparation for shooting the film – there is so little to the characterisations and the plot that it seems likely writer Scot Armstrong and director Kent Alterman felt the visual gag of Ferrell in a singlet would be enough. Not surprisingly, it isn’t. The supporting roles (apart from Harrelson’s) are one-dimensional, and the plot banal. Ferrell seems only half interested in proceedings, and the film seems to drag in spite of its short length. It isn’t clear why someone like Will Arnett would bother with the bit part he is allowed… perhaps he needs the money?
It is easy enough to know whether a film like Semi-Pro is likely to appeal to your sense of humour – if the idea of prolonged groin shots taken from below Ferrell during squats sounds uproarious, knock yourself out.Rating: