By now the Will Ferrell formula is apparent: Find some job or sport or fashion era that has loads of inherent humor, give the main character some insurmountable challenge to face, and . . . action! This time it's basketball in the 1970s. Not that I’m complaining, really; the movie's predictable laughs are still laughs.
In Semi-Pro we find Will Ferrell shoving his gigantic, blindingly white self into a super tight unflattering outfit — not unlike the gimmicky tight costumes in Blades of Glory, only this time it's a basketball uniform. The movie follows one-hit wonder Jackie Moon's (Ferrell) team, the Flint Michigan Tropics, as they fight for a place in the NBA. Though the Ferrell train sometimes seems to be running out of steam, I still think it's worth jumping on board one more time with this movie. I'll tell you why if you read more.
Jackie Moon scored a major hit with his slow jam "Love Me Sexy" and used the profits from the song's success to give Flint a team in the ABA, a struggling national basketball league known more for publicity stunts rather than athleticism. When the ABA is threatening to fold, the commissioner warns that only the best teams will get to merge into the NBA.
Jackie Moon is better at promoting his team with stunts like bear wrestling than coaching, so he brings on board a former champion Ed Monix (a seriously spray-tanned Woody Harrelson) to help whip them into shape. Moon also relies heavily on his team's star, Clarence "Coffee" Black (played by the excellent André Benjamin from Outkast).
I have to say, this is an interesting addition to Ferrell's canon. I can't believe I'm going to type this, but Semi-Pro stands apart from his other movies because most of the supporting characters are deeply appealing and have a shocking amount of depth. I actually found myself caring about this story. Oddly, I found that Ferrell himself sometimes got in my way of enjoying the movie, his goofball act being more miss than hit this time around.
Ultimately, it's the ensemble cast that makes this movie worthwhile. In particular, Will Arnett and MADtv's Andrew Daly made me laugh much more than any prolonged shot of Ferrell's crotch did. Semi-Pro as a whole is a good ride, but it also signaled to me that it's time for Ferrell to head back to the drawing board and give us something new. Here's hoping this summer's Step Brothers will be just the thing to shake things up.
Photos courtesy of New Line Cinema