Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language and some Sexual Content
Directed by: Kent Alterman
Written by: Scot Armstrong
Starring: Will Ferrell, Andre Benjamin, Woody Harrelson, Andrew Daly, Will Arnett, David Koechner, Rob Corddry, Jackie Earle Haley, Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, Ed Helms
It seems like you either dig Will Ferrell or you don’t. He’s got his fair share of misfires, but the man knows how to bring a goofy sense of humor. After tackling news anchors, race car drivers, and figure skaters, Ferrell brought an R-rated basketball comedy to the screen in February 2008. At this point, it seemed like a lot of people were fed up with him essentially playing the same idiot over and over, because SEMI-PRO bombed at the box office. It’s not highly regarded by critics or the general public. This is one of those times where I have to heartily disagree. SEMI-PRO isn’t Ferrell’s best film and it’s far from his funniest, but this is a very entertaining sports comedy that frequently ventures into ridiculous areas. It made me laugh and I don’t understand the unwarranted hatred this film brings out in people. SEMI-PRO is one of the reasons I go back and watch older films that weren’t necessarily big hits upon their releases. This is an underrated flick.
The year is 1976 and basketball is still evolving into what it is today. One hit wonder Jackie Moon, whose single “Love Me Sexy” made him rich, owns, coaches, and plays in ABA Flint Tropics. As the times are changing, the ABA is merging into the NBA and only the best teams will be taken, while the rest just disappear. The Flint Tropics are not a good team, far from it. They suck and Jackie Moon brings desperate publicity stunts to put the asses in the seats. With the newly arrived star player Ed Monix joining the Tropics, the team gets a drastic makeover in the gameplay and Jackie takes even crazier measures to try to ensure that they will be absorbed into the NBA.
The comically exaggerated 70’s style, lingo, and references are merely a backdrop to this film that deserves a place just below TALLADEGA NIGHTS. SEMI-PRO is ludicrous and frequently funny. It’s a good sign when you can point out only a couple of jokes that fell flat. I laughed out loud a lot during SEMI-PRO. Even the lesser gags still got some chuckles out of me. However, the film almost plays out in episodic fashion. This is usually the downfall of plenty comedies, but SEMI-PRO still keeps things vaguely held together with the glue of this team trying to take the long, hard road to success.
Familiar faces from other Ferrell movies show up, specifically in Will Arnett as a chain-smoking, easily angered sports commentator. A lot of people who I haven’t seen paired with Ferrell make appearances too. Woody Harrelson being the obvious one and he’s more of a straight-man to all the shenanigans happening around him, but does get in some solid material. Rob Corddry was the show-stealer for me though. I love Corddry in other movies (he’s the best part of HOT TUB TIME MACHINE without a doubt), but he’s hysterical as the boyfriend to Ed Monix’s former flame. He got huge laughs out of me for an unconventional approach to a familiar type of character.
SEMI-PRO follows a conventional sports-comedy formula of the underdog team trying to beat seemingly insurmountable odds, but this is actually glanced over in a lot of areas. The progression is mainly seen in a typical montage. A couple of unexpected turns also pop up in the final third and I enjoyed this approach to a well-worn type of story. Ferrell and his wacky antics are the main focus, as they should be in a film like this. Also, some might argue that the movie doesn’t go far enough with its R rating (mainly consisting of a ton of creative profanity and one sexually explicit funny moment). Not all comedies need to step as far over the line as they possibly can though. Not everything needs to push the envelope. Sometimes, a purely enjoyable flick like SEMI-PRO can hit the spot just fine.
At a brisk 91 minutes, nothing is ever allowed enough time to drag. It’s yet another bit of praise for a severely overlooked comedy that seemed to blend into a sea of Will Ferrell flicks. SEMI-PRO is definitely better than both ANCHORMAN films. It’s better than BLADES OF GLORY. I wouldn’t say it’s better than TALLADEGA NIGHTS (which might be my favorite Ferrell comedy), but it’s a damn entertaining film that satisfies for what it is. Like a good basketball game will entertain sports fans, SEMI-PRO will entertain the fans of Will Ferrell.