Semi-Pro Movie Review
The funnyman's stable of petulant and grossly overconfident buffoons grows with the addition of Jackie Moon, owner, coach, and starting power forward for the Flint Tropics, a fictional ABA basketball squad hoping to survive the 1976 merger with the NBA.
Too bad Moon's team is terrible. Star player Clarence "Coffee" Black (Andre Benjamin) doesn't understand the concept of teamwork. And Moon would rather plan a memorable halftime show than hit a game-winning shot. So the coach puts all his eggs in one basket, trading the team's washing machine for an over-the-hill shooting guard (Woody Harrelson) with his own set of troubles.
The Ferrell formula remains alive and semi-well here. Moon is another deluded man-child in need of personal salvation. And Ferrell knows how to surround his lead characters with amusing (and distractible) supporting players. The funniest is Andrew Daly, half of a two-man analyst team (the other is Will Arnett), who plays straight man to the ensemble's locker-room antics. And Harrelson understands how to aggressively counterbalance Ferrell's ego-heavy comedy. He probably researched the role by studying the approaches of Christina Applegate, Sacha Baron Cohen and, most recently, Jon Heder in Blades of Glory.
Semi-Pro has its moments. Screenwriter Scot Armstrong wrote similarly juvenile comedies like Starsky & Hutch and Road Trip and manages two or three laugh-out-loud sequences. Where else but a Ferrell comedy could a skit about calling someone a "jive turkey" escalate into a crude game of Russian roulette?
But the material bridging the amusing scenes is noticeably thin. Semi-Pro runs a scant 90 minutes, and still has trouble with dead spots. Armstrong recycles jokes Ferrell fans will recognize. To lure larger crowds to Tropics games, Moon agrees to wrestle a bear. It's almost like the time Ferrell wrestled a cougar in Talladega Nights. And it's exactly like the time he wrestled a bear in Anchorman.
Other jokes sputter and fade before reaching an actual punch line. There's a great gag where Moon tries to prevent his team from making unnecessary baskets because he has promised the crowd tacos if the Tropics score over 100 points and he can't afford to make good on the promotion. Moon fails, the point total is reached, and the scene ends with no payoff.
Ferrell's shtick still makes me laugh, and I look forward to his next project. But it's time he gives these sports comedies a little time on the bench before his big-screen career fouls out.
HORSE: the movie.