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Semi-Pro (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 28, 2023

SEMI-PRO (2008)

Starring Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin, Maura Tierney, Will Arnett, Andy Richter, David Koechner, Rob Corddry, Andrew Daly, Matt Walsh, Jackie Earle Haley and Patti LaBelle.

Screenplay by Scot Armstrong.

Directed by Kent Alterman.

Distributed by New Line Pictures. 90 minutes. Rated R.

I want my money back.

Not only that, but I also want my gas money back. I want the concession stand money back. I want the brain cells which were killed by this stagnant quote-unquote "comedy" back. I want my time back. I want my life back.

Think of the many ways I could have spent my time more productively than watching Will Ferrell’s latest car-wreck, Semi-Pro. I could have cleaned my house, done the wash, taken a walk, read a book, surfed for porn on the internet, watched 180 commercials, counted to 10,000,000 – backwards, rearranged pez dispensers, insulated my cat's kitty condo or gotten dental surgery. Any of those would have been preferable to sitting through this mess.

I guess it’s time I finally give in to something that has been growing on me for well over a decade. I really can’t stand Will Ferrell. Once in a blue moon he will do something worthwhile that will give me a little false hope – Elf and Stranger than Fiction is about it really – but eventually I keep coming back to the same place.

I hate his prancing, mincing overacting. I hate his mean-spirited, self-satisfied, unfunny jokes. I hate his insistence on trying to use his white, doughy, middle-aged body for comic effects because he has no other comic talent. I hate his use of hairstyles as a character trait. I hate the fact that he is well paid to make total garbage when talented comedians can’t get a job. I hate everything about his tired, sad act.

Will Ferrell is the most inexplicable movie star since Adam Sandler; Ferrell’s other former-Saturday Night Live Not Ready for Prime Talent Player.

Well, actually, the world would probably be a richer place if no one who has ever been on Saturday Night Live had never done a movie after National Lampoon’s Animal House. For every one of the very few good films – Ghostbusters, Fletch, 48 Hrs. (hmmm, none of them have come since the 1980s)there are dozens of crappy wastes the like of Big Daddy, Dr. Detroit, It’s Pat!, Kicking and Screaming, Deuce Bigelow, Male Gigolo, A Night at the Roxbury, Joe Dirt, Beverly Hills Ninja, Taxi, Corky Romano, the list is way too long and depressing to keep going.

Yet, of the many actors who have ridden a Saturday Night Live stint into a series of inexplicable bad films, Ferrell is right about the top of the list.

He is a one-trick pony that doesn’t even have a good trick. Semi-Pro is just a merging of two styles he has already stunk up the joint with before – the dumb sports comedy (see: Kicking and Screaming, Blades of Glory and Talladega Nights) and the dumb 70s nostalgia comedy (see: Anchorman and Bewitched – which in fairness was a dumb 60s nostalgia comedy).

Not that there is anything really 70s about this movie anyway. Despite the fact that they have lots of loud clothes, extraordinarily high afros and gratuitous pong, jive turkey and fondue references, there is nothing the least bit 70s feeling about Semi-Pro.

They even take their storyline – the one clever and well thought out thing about this whole shambling mess of a movie, from a real 70s event. The failure of the old upstart basketball league the ABA (American Basketball Association) is a story ripe for telling. Only four of its franchises were allowed to merge with the more established, less flashy competitor, the NBA – the rest of the clubs were forced to close down. It is an interesting enough historical event to make a terrific book, a great drama, a fine documentary, or even a side-splitting comedy.

Instead, with Semi-Pro, the memory of the ABA has to live with one final indignity.

Ferrell plays Jackie Moon – a basketball star/coach/owner/promoter/pop star who is in charge of a fictional ABA team called the Flint Tropics. Even the team’s name is stupid… there is nothing tropical about Flint, Michigan. I get that it is screenwriter Scot Armstrong's (who also wrote Ferrell's unfunny Old School as well as the recent horrible remake of The Heartbreak Kid) idea of irony, but if you're being ironic with the name, a writer has to acknowledge or at least have a reason for the irony. Strangely, they used the real names of all the other ABA teams, apparently trying to drag some reality into the gonzo absurd world of the film.

Despite the fact that they are the worst team in the league and have almost no following, Jackie is determined to make his team the fourth best in the league, to get an invite to the NBA. Thus, the film becomes an awkward mix of sports-movie clichés and comic scenes so absurd (and unfunny) as to beggar belief.

Ferrell drags some real actors down into the morass with him – Woody Harrelson, Maura Tierney and Andy Richter try their best to inject some professionalism into this lost cause, but in the long run they just end up looking sad. Rapper Andre Benjamin of OutKast also appears to have some acting talent, however Robert De Niro or Meryl Streep could not have made his ridiculous character seem any more realistic.

It’s about time someone admitted it. Semi-Pro isn’t just Will Ferrell’s latest movie, it is his talent level. Farrell is the epitome of the smug laziness that infests all too much of modern comedy. Semi-Pro is the worst film that Farrell has ever made at least until the next one.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008 All rights reserved. Posted: March 22, 2008.


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