prefix "Semi" is often used to describe half of
a certain thing. When used in the title of the new Will
Ferrell movie Semi-Pro, it’s used to reference
the skill level and status of a group of basketball players
playing in the American Basketball Association (ABA) right
before a proposed merger to the more successful National
Basketball Association (NBA) during the 1970's.
NBA was seen as the better promotion, with the money and
talent to back it up, and the ABA was seen as the smaller,
failing promotion, or half as good. It’s only fitting
then that the worlds in this movie, directed by Kent Alterman,
and even the movie itself be split in two.
movie that’s being promoted to audiences is what you’d
come to expect from the usual Will Ferrell recipe. The dopey
man-child, in this case Jackie Moon, is a big shot recording
artist, who uses his the profits from his number one hit,
"Love Me Sexy," to purchase ABA team the Flint
Tropics (which, if anyone knows anything about Flint, Michigan,
there’s nary a Tropic to be found).
Moon’s not only an owner; he’s a player and
the coach. He leads a bunch of dimwitted and down on their
luck misfits through league play and life is good. That
is until an owners meeting reveals that all teams in the
ABA, save four, will be phased out in a merger with the
at the news, our man Jackie gets the owners to agree that
only the best four teams should go on to the NBA and not
just the ones with the most attendance, and so sets forth
the motivation for our main protagonists -- to get within
the top four teams.
usually from any comedy movie standpoint that would be enough.
You’d expect Will Ferrell to haphazardly lead his
motley crew from zeroes to heroes and win the day and along
the way you’d be privy to an hour and a half of wacky
and absurd comedy and farce. Well, in this movie you get
that, but only half of the time.
Enter Woody Harrelson.
takes a strange turn and somewhere along the way splits
into a second movie with the introduction of has-been, hard-drinking,
hard-fighting would-be NBA champion, Monix (Harrelson).
Monix, who’s traded to the Tropics for a washing machine,
is an athlete whose love for the game is waning and his
best days are behind him. Jackie hopes that having an actual
NBA champion on the team will help them achieve their goal,
but Monix’s only motivation is to reunite with old
flame Lynn (The totally doable Maura Tierney).
major problem with this part of the film is that what has
been established is totally farcical. It’s not a real
world these characters are living in. It’s a crazy,
Will Ferrell, grizzly bear wrestling world. Unfortunately,
Monix and Lynn are real world people. Their relationship
and their past are real and they’re actually portrayed
very well. Their story breaks off from the Will Ferrell
farce and Semi-Pro now becomes somewhat of a historical
piece about the last days of the ABA and about playing basketball
for the love of the game.
in the sub-plot of Clarence “Coffee” Black,
(The ever engaging Andre’ Benjamin) as the real talent
and heart of the Tropics whose dream is to achieve NBA status,
then you’ve got yourself a real head spinner of a
movie. Is it a Will Ferrell romp…a heartfelt sports
history genre movie… or a Woody Harrelson redemption
movie? The answer is, ultimately, all of the above.
worry, though; Semi-Pro has got laughs. The cast
is rounded out by tons of funny people including Will Arnett,
Andy Richter and Andrew Daly, with cameos by SNL
vet and personal fav Timmy Meadows, and soon to be household
name Kristen Wiig. Rob Corddry (The Daily Show)
just about steals the film as Lynn’s boyfriend Kyle,
who has an unhealthy admiration of Monix, and the soon to
be Rorschach in Warner Brothers' Watchmen Jackie
Earle Haley gets some laughs as the spacey hippy Dukes.
Unfortunately, the laughs are few and far between and the
other side, there’s a real winner of a movie with
the dramatic story, and I felt myself most captivated when
Semi-Pro dealt with the history of the ABA and the
players' desire to find motivation and actually learn to
play together as a team. Semi-Pro could have actually
been made without Will Ferrell and just been a story about
the last days of the ABA and it would have worked just fine.
I found myself very perplexed when watching
Semi-Pro, tuning out when Will Ferrell’s antics got
a little old hat but perking up when Woody Harrelson’s
character continued his journey. I would have liked some
more history on the ABA and what it brought to the game
of professional basketball that we know today, and possibly
Will Ferrell in a supporting role, still providing comic
relief, but not overpowering the story. Semi-Pro is a good
movie, but not necessarily a great movie. You could say
that I Semi-Liked it.