New Line // 2008 // 100 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // June 3rd, 2008
Let's get sweaty. Let's get tropical.
For the past three years, Will Ferrell has been the king of sports comedies. He successfully coached a kids' soccer team, slipped into the role of a legendary NASCAR driver, and even played an energetic Olympic figure skater. But when it comes to playing basketball, he clearly lacks training. Semi-Pro is one of only a few R-rated Will Ferrell flicks, and considering his recent successes, it's also the one with the lowest gross at the box office. Maybe it's time to bench him for a while.
This time, Ferrell stars as Jackie Moon, the owner, coach and star player of the Flint Tropics, a weak Michigan basketball team competing in the American Basketball Association. When the league slips into financial trouble and rumors about a potential merger with the NBA start to surface, Jackie sees a unique opportunity for this team. But the problem is, only the top four teams are going, and the rest of them will be dissolved. Now that Jackie has only a couple of weeks to end the Tropics' losing streak, he starts off by trading his washing machine for former NBA player Monix (Woody Harrelson), who uses his experience on the bench to help Jackie coach the team to success.
Ferrell's movies are not necessarily intelligent or completely innovative, but most of them deliver an enjoyable show filled with big laughs, catchy dialogue and plenty of silliness for everybody who desires to engage in two hours of brainless fun. After watching Kent Alterman's Semi-Pro, however, I came to the conclusion that it may be time for Ferrell to try something else. To cut a long story short, watching him perform the same old routine over and over again is getting pretty annoying. He's quite simply not as funny as he used to be.
I have to admit Ferrell injects Jackie Moon with a lot of energy, but the weak script by Scot Armstrong doesn't provide him with enough opportunities to deliver an outstanding show. Semi-Pro is rather boring, and it doesn't offer anything to keep viewers captivated until the very end. The basketball action is limited and most of the jokes fall flat, and while the main story line sounds pretty exciting at first, it features a bunch of unnecessary subplots lacking development and depth. As the title already suggests, most of what you see here is only semi-amusing.
Don't get me wrong though, the movie is not a complete disaster. Select scenes do provoke a few laughs and are fairly entertaining, although they don't necessarily boost the global pace of the plot. Consider them more as little reliefs from all the boring stuff going on in the film. The funniest stuff onscreen mostly involves Jackie Moon pulling off his incredibly eccentric promotional stunts -- the only thing he's really good at. Whether he jumps over cheerleaders in skates, dances around the court wearing flamingo dresses or wrestles a real bear, he knows who to keep his few fans cheering during the break. Then again, other sequences eliminate all the fun, like one embarrassing scene in which Monix tries to get Jackie to puke for the first time in his life. Unnecessary indeed.
If you're a die-hard Ferrell fan, I'm sure you won't find many flaws in his performance as Jackie Moon, the overexcited owner-coach-player who doesn't really have a clue. Sure, he looks incredibly ridiculous and does a great job performing the provocative "Love Me Sexy" song, but other than that, I didn't really find anything memorable in his acting this time. The two actors I really enjoyed watching in this are Woody Harrelson as Monix, who later replaces Jackie as the coach and puts some spice into the Tropics' team spirit, and Andrew Daly as Dick Pepperfield, the weird radio and TV host. Andre Benjamin, Will Arnett and Andy Richter don't really stand out, and Jackie Earle Haley's role as a stoned Tropics fan is completely unnecessary.
I really enjoyed the technical aspects of this DVD. The film comes with a sharp picture quality and astonishingly clean video transfer, and the strong colors look really great for standard definition. The audio transfer is top-notch as well, and the dialogue is well balanced with the sound effects on the basketball court, the cheering of the fans and the accompanying music.
I've been pretty satisfied with New Line Cinema's recent DVD releases, and this two-disc edition features a whole lot of exciting material, some of which is at times even more enjoyable than the movie itself. The first disc includes both the theatrical and the extended version of the film, although the latter only contains more boobs and a couple of extended scenes. The bonus material on the second disc is divided into three sections. "From the Cutting Room" includes three decent deleted scenes and even a rather entertaining alternate ending, as well as three pretty funny improvs featuring Will Ferrell, Will Arnett and Andrew Daly.
"Behind the Scenes" is a collection of six featurettes offering viewers an insight into what went down behind the camera. The most original one is the piece on the history of the ABA, primarily because it includes interviews with former players who describe the league and share their personal experiences. "Re-creating the ABA" is an informative 12-minute documentary on how they created the sets, logos and styles to gives the film an authentic ABA flair. This piece also includes hilarious footage from basketball training sessions involving the main actors. Other than that, this section also features a look at the creation of the film's theme song "Love Me Sexy," a set visit with former NBA player Bill Walton, and an enlightening video diary about the shoot in Flint, Michigan.
The highlight of the special features is a 25-minute making-of with cast and crew interviews about the birth of the film and the development of the script. Kent Alterman and Scot Armstrong also discuss the inspirations that led to some of the scenes in the film, as well as casting the lead actors and teaching them how to play the game. Viewers wanting to learn a lot more about the production of the film should definitely check this one out before moving on to the rest of the bonus material. The promotional section on the second disc boasts a music video and a couple of trailers.
The film definitely has its positive aspects, but I'm really disappointed in the shallow script. The few funny scenes I mentioned definitely prove the original premise had plenty of potential, but screenwriter Armstrong missed his chance to create yet another Ferrell hit. Looking at Ferrell's upcoming projects it seems he's taking a break from sports comedies, and that's a welcomed change indeed. Work on those free throws Jackie!
Review content copyright © 2008 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Theatrical and Extended Versions of the Film
* Deleted Scenes
* Improv Clips
* "Love Me Sexy" The Story Behind the One Hit Wonder
* Re-Creating the ABA
* Bill Walton Visits the Set
* Four Days in Flint
* The Man Behind Semi-Pro
* "Love Me Sexy" Music Video
* Flint Tropics Hot Talk with Dick Pepperfield
* Official Site
* DVD Verdict Review - Semi-Pro (Blu-ray)