Movie Reviews

Half-Ass Movie Review: Semi-Pro (Mar 6)

After extensive viewing of his body of work, I have come to the following conclusion:  If you don’t love Will Ferrell, there is something wrong with you.  I’m not here to judge or anything.  It doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person, though it certainly could be a tiebreaker.  If you don’t love Will Ferrell, I sort of want to sit down with you and try to figure out what makes you tick.  Are you capable of joy?  Do you understand humor?  What other essential aspects of life are missing from your overall makeup?  Would you reject the opportunity to play with a puppy?

In Ferrell’s new Semi-Pro, he returns to the 1970’s, an era that proved fruitful for him in Anchorman.

This time out, Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, the owner/coach/power forward of the Flint Tropics, a team in the semi-professional American Basketball Association.

(By the way, I know next to nothing about the history of basketball, so I’m taking everything portrayed in the movie as gospel truth.) Unlike most of his other comedies, Will Ferrell’s character isn’t unaccountably popular. He’s no Ricky Bobby – Jackie Moon’s just a guy who made some money off of a hit song and bought a failing basketball team.

With the NBA buying out the top four ABA teams and dissolving the rest (Again, I have no reason to doubt that’s anything other than unvarnished truth.), Jackie’s desperate to save his franchise. If you need more than that for plot, you should go rent Michael Clayton. Will and the crew have comedy to create, and that kind of stuff’s just going to slow them down.

As in most of his movies, Ferrell surrounds himself with a cast of excellent comedic performers. This time out, the crew includes Andy Richter, Matt Walsh (his fourth appearance in a Will Ferrell movie, the first where he doesn’t play a character named ‘Matt Walsh’), Andre Benjamin, Rob Corddry, David Koechner, Kristen Wiig, Andrew Daly, and Will Arnett (sporting a mustache that ought to land him on spunkybean’s home page). Arnett and Daly are standouts as the radio announcers covering the team. They have this great anti-chemistry that fills all their interactions with needless bile. Semi-Pro actually suffers from an embarrassment of comedic riches, with Ed Helms and Jason Sudeikis each limited to a single scene.

My one complaint is that Semi-Pro lacks the sheer anarchy of the best Will Ferrell comedies. Anchorman and Talladega Nights boast an almost willful disregard for conventional plot structure. Of course Ron Burgundy has a conch shell that can summon his news team! Why wouldn’t he? Semi-Pro falls more into line with Old School and Blades of Glory, where Ferrell came along after the story was finished. Unfortunately, Woody Harrelson’s character gets too caught up in this, and doesn’t really get to contribute to the comedy. Harrelson’s Monix has a romantic subplot and a pretty standard character arc, and so he never really fits in with the parts of the movie that are the most fun. But then, his arc does involve Rob Corddry and an insanely creepy-funny interaction between the two.

That said, there’s more than enough lunatic fun to compensate for the occasional lapses where the plot gets in the way of comedy. I mean, Jackie Moon wrestles a bear! It’s a little known-scientific fact that the presence of bears makes everything 30 to 40 percent funnier. You can look that up on your Internet, pal. Jackie’s promotional schemes and temper tantrums are consistently hilarious, and I want his theme “Love Me Sexy” as a ringtone. (“Baby, wake up. We’re naked and we’re humpin’ sexy.”) And there’s a poker/Russian roulette scene which, for me, is the funniest thing in the entire movie. (“Swedish porn saved my life in ‘Nam.”)

All in all, it’s no Anchorman, but since Anchorman is the platonic ideal by which all movies are judged, that’s to be expected. It’s still more ridiculous fun than we probably deserve. Even when the plot gets bogged down, they’ve earned more than enough goodwill from “No refunds! Your refund is escaping this deathtrap with your lives!” and “She just seems structurally unsound to me” to get you through to the next scene where Jackie addresses his inability to vomit. It’s a more than worthy addition to the Will Ferrell canon, and the eventual DVD is going to end up in heavy rotation at my house.

Score: Four out of five beans. They traded the fifth one for a washing machine.

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