Sometimes, the critics are just wrong. This week, we’re bringing Kent Alterman’s Semi-Pro back from the dead.
Dir: Kent Alterman
Starring: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Andre 3000, Andy Richter, Will Arnett
IMDb rating: 5.6
Metacritic rating: 47
It was labeled uninspired and flat upon its release, whilst being accused of offering nothing new. But does a movie like Semi-Pro have to offer us anything new? Will Ferrell’s movies tend to stick to a formula and they’re usually pretty great, so why stray from the path?
Semi-Pro sees Ferrell in another comedy set in the 70s, this time playing idiot Owner/Coach/Power Forward Jackie Moon for basketball team the Flint Tropics. The NBA want to merge with the ABA, giving Jackie Moon and his team a shot at playing in the NBA. Only The Tropics suck at basketball, their team is almost bankrupt and they struggle to get enough numbers to fill half of their stadium.
Cue the normal pandemonium of a Will Ferrell movie, as Moon tries to up his team’s game by trading their washing machine for former NBA champion Ed Monnix, played by a superb Woody Harrelson (in a fantastic nod to White Men Can’t Jump). Moon also tries to up their crowd numbers with outrageous halftime shows, including, but not limited to, wrestling a live bear.
Semi-Pro contains the normal pandemonium of a Will Ferrell movie. Why stray from the path?
The underdog rising up and eventually turning around a diabolical season is a fairly simple, well established formula for the sports movie, and is perhaps why Semi-Pro received such a lukewarm reaction from critics. It was deemed not funny enough to be a comedy and too similar to other sports movies to be taken as a standalone basketball movie. Semi-Pro also has many of the usual traits of a Ferrell movie. It contains Will showing off his pipes with the outstanding Love Me Sexy, which by the way was written by funk god Nile Rodgers. Will also loses his shit, becoming so excited he can’t even feel his own arms.
You can always be certain of great comedic talent popping up in a Will Ferrell movie – Semi-Pro doesn’t disappoint. It’s great to see actors picking up cameos in early film roles, like Jason Sudeikis as a Tropics fan, Ed Helms as a journalist and Kristin Wiig as the bear trainer. Then you have established comedians just being excellent; Will Arnett as Lou, the scotch swiggin’, chain smokin’ commentator is the standout.
Which leads us to another thing that Ferrell fans have in abundance with Semi-Pro: quotes. It’s a point of pride with those who watch a lot of Ferrell as to how many quotes one can bounce off one another, and the more niche or obscure the quote the better. There’s nothing that warms the heart quicker than calling someone a jive turkey, and the mutual understanding that comes with knowing that is the worst insult you can give a man.
You can’t take a Will Ferrell film and judge it on the spectrum of normal comedies – it’s not great, but it’s enjoyable for what it is
On the whole you can’t take a Will Ferrell film and judge it on the spectrum of normal comedies – you must judge it within the individual parameters of films that, in the grand scheme of things, are not great, but succeed with their task in being enjoyable for what they are. In much the same way the The Expendables is enjoyable because it’s explosions and bullets, and shouting when Arnie makes his cameo. You can’t have expectations of highbrow comedy, or deep meaningful characters from a film like Semi-Pro. But you can expect deep belly laughs from a string of ridiculous situations and hilarious one-liners, along with a decent underdog tale. Probably best enjoyed with a big-ass bong and like-minded friends.
All images: New Line Cinema