Semi-Pro Movie Review
Basketball has evolved tremendously over the last several decades, though from what I can't really say as I neither was alive then nor care now to really research the matter. Still, basketball of old seems to scream of more innocent, less luxurious times, and Semi-Pro, the new Will Ferrell movie coming to DVD this Tuesday, had an excellent opportunity to capitalize on such a concept. Ferrell has already taken on figure skating, NASCAR and weathermen with a similar approach and style, and it seemed almost inevitable that Semi-Pro would be one of his most successful films to date. Amazingly, it turned out to be a box office disappointment, and having now watched the film, I must say that, for once, audiences were to smart to avoid this picture.
Semi-Pro is a drab disaster of a film, easily Ferrell's worst since 2005's Bewitched and Kicking & Screaming. I'm just shocked. People, including myself, have faulted Ferrell for being a one-track actor; most of his movies are exactly the same, the tone, dialogue and acting style applied to different, basic plots. That being said, as similar as Ferrell's movies have been, they have still been pretty entertaining, and get better with every viewing. I usually come away from a Ferrell movie having laughed a lot but knowing that it was no different than the last; I expected the same here. Semi-Pro wasn't going to offer up anything new or particularly clever, but it was going to be silly, absurd fun with Ferrell shouting his way through another absurd storyline under the guise of an absurd character. I sure as hell wasn't expecting a boring and unfunny crapfest.
The movie focuses on Jackie Moon, the owner/coach/star player of the Flint Tropics, a horribly bad semi-pro basketball team that attracts a few loyal fans but not much else. Jackie's philosophy has always been to entertain the crowd versus establish a winning game plan, but when he finds that the league is being merged with the NBA - his team not included - he realizes that he actually has to start winning. Jackie brings on former pro Monix (Woody Harrelson) to help, but will it be enough to save the Tropics from termination?
Semi-Pro has the makings of a funny comedy, but rookie director Kent Alterman shows his inexperience by failing to capitalize on its potential. From shorty shorts to underhand free throws and general 1970's material, Alterman misses the mark when it comes to splashing the film with goofy moments that play into its overall concept. The whole film seems drawn out and ordinary, with very little that makes fun of basketball, the 70's or much else. Almost every funny part is shown in the previews, and the best thing to come from Semi-Pro was the Super Bowl beer ads. That's not good when a commercial is better than a 90-minute film.
The movie never gains traction in any way or form. It is rarely funny, and when it is the laughs only last for a few seconds. The biggest mistake is that the movie relies solely on Ferrell when it should have developed the other players on the team. Even Ferrell's character doesn't have much to it, however, and strangely, Harrelson's uninteresting character - and his pointless relationship with ex-girlfriend Maura Tierney - gets more attention. The movie also lacks much conflict, villains or engaging love interests; coupled with a bunch of skin-deep characters, there's not much to the movie.
Semi-Pro is a huge disappointment. I wasn't expecting anything great, but this one is just bad. Whether you like Ferrell or not, it's safe to say that you can skip this one.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.