Director – Kent Alterman
Writer – Scot Armstrong
Starring – Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Andre Benjamin, Maura Tierney, Andrew Daley, Andy Richter
Even though I don’t find every one of his comedic efforts funny I still would say I am a Will Ferrell fan, that is until recently. His usual routines used to work on me almost every time but with such films as Talladega Nights and Blades of Glory his schtick has wore thing with me. His latest, Semi-Pro, is at least semi-watchable but far from hilarious.
Jackie Moon (Ferrell), the own-coach-player of the Flint Michigan Tropics basketball team, rallies his teammates to make it into the NBA.
Maybe it’s just me and like I said Ferrell just doesn’t work with me any more but from where I was sitting Semi-Pro just isn’t all that funny. There are a few moments here and there, including a laugh-out-loud funny scene where his character fights at bear, but for the most part it just misfires at almost every turn. The ingredients are all there for a good comedy; a usually funny cast, some great opportunities to be outrageous in the name of comedy and a 70’s setting to have all sorts of reference gags for anyone who knows and/or remembers that time period. And all throughout there is a distinct inclusion of attempts to do this. But for some reason almost every intended joke misses not only the bull’s-eye but a lot of the time even just the target itself.
The cast of the film are all faces you will recognize from not only the world of comedy but outwith that as well. From the comedic world we obviously have Ferrell, who does his usual routines that fail to get much laughs because we have simply seen it all before. Will Arnett, of Arrested Development makes an appearance as one of the game commentators, whose character is one of the funniest parts of the movie. And there are a few Saturday Night Live stars such as Andrew Daly and Matt Walsh who throw their hats into the ring. Like Ferrell, as far as I can tell, all these guys do their usual thing resulting in yet another sense of the audience just getting sick of it. A couple of usually non-comedic actors try their hand at it here, most notably Andrew Benjamin and Woody Harrelsen. Benjamin shows promise that he could become a regular comedy actor in his next few movies, even though I wasn’t totally impressed by his routine here. Dramatic acting hasn’t exactly gotten him far so who knows comedy might just be where his talents lie.
Harrelsen is probably the high point of this film, virtually upstaging Ferrell. He has popped up here and there in slightly comedic roles but if I’m not mistaken this is his first attempt at a full on comedy role. And I have to say I was impressed with him here. I wouldn’t have believed a few years ago that I would ever say this but the reason to see a movie starring Will Ferrell isn’t Ferrell himself but actually it’s Woody Harrelsen. He holds his own in what is the funniest character of the movie, despite him being given considerably less screen time than some of the other, more comedy experienced actors.
Another positive aspect of the film is the look of it and more specifically the whole 70’s setting. It doesn’t quite draw the laughs by paying homage or making fun of the era that I was hoping but they pretty much nailed the look, feel and costumes of the 1970’s. Although that’s not the reason you should want to see a sporting comedy but in this case it’s one of the better things about it.
The differences between Semi-Pro and Ferrell’s other, much funnier work doesn’t just stop at the monumental decrease in laughs but also in its characters, specifically the main character of Jackie Moon, played by Ferrell himself. Some of his other characters like Old School’s Frank Ricard, Elf’s Buddy and especially Ron ‘Anchorman’ Burgundy are really memorable, quotable and funny even outwith the movies they are part of. Semi-Pro’s Jackie Moon, although a trademark kind of character for Ferrell, is neither overly funny nor memorable in any way. Unlike Ron Burgundy he will most likely be forgotten in the next few months, even weeks perhaps, and only looked backed on by die hard Will Ferrell fans.
So Semi-Pro falls severely short of the standard of comedy it so could have been. Ferrell does his usual, now boring comedic routine and the rest of the cast pretty much follow suit. Most of the jokes and sight gags misfire almost completely, with the exception of a couple of laugh-out-loud funny scenes, leaving Semi-Pro a big comedic disappointment.