Saturday, June 7, 2008

Semi-Pro Review

Rich Knight
91 Mins
No Rate
Starring: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Andre Benjamin, Maura Tierney, Will Arnett, David Koelchner
Produced by: Jimmy Miller
Written by: Scott Armstrong
Directed by: Kent Alterman
New Line Cinema

Unfortunately for Will Ferrell, Semi-Pro will probably go down in history as “That basketball movie with Will Ferrell wearing an afro,” or, “That movie where that poor stunt double got mauled by a bear.” Either way you put it, though, both of these unfiltered quotes could probably be combined to sum up the movie as a whole: Will Ferrell playing basketball with an afro and getting mauled by a bear. There really isn’t much more to this lackluster, sport-themed comedy.

The Movie: 1 star

Will Ferrell, like Shaq at the free throw line, is entirely undpredicatably when it comes to making movies. Sometimes, he can land a slam dunk and elevate himself to comic god-like status with movies like Old School and Talladega Nights. Other times, he misses both shots entirely at the free throw line and brings down the whole damn team with atrocities like Kicking and Screaming and Bewitched. Well, taking that whole basketball analogy a bit further, Will Ferrell’s latest entry to the sports world, Semi-Pro is a missed basket that winds up costing the whole team the last game of the finals. This ultimately makes it a horrible decision for anybody and everybody involved.

The worst part of all this, though, is that all this could have actually been avoided if the cast had had a better script on hand. Instead, plain sight lead in jokes often stumble, action scenes clunker along, and Will Ferrell is just left to stand around and scream his head off. In the end, it’s easy to see that the star is using whatever moxie he can to try and not look bored in this unabashedly terrible movie.

Given how bad this movie is, though, it’s all the more a shame to find that the story actually had potential. It’s the follow-up lay-up, though, that’s the problem, and that’s what ultimately jumbles the whole movie. Will Ferrell stars as Jackie Moon, a disco star in the late 70s whose rise to fame is spearheaded by a ludicrously explicit disco song called, “Love Me Sexy.” It was this song that made him rich enough to purchase the fictitious Flint Michigan Tropics for reasons that are never quite explained throughout the entirety of the movie.

The problem is, though, as the current coach, promoter, and even player for the team, he’s also responsible for the team’s future, which is put in jeoprody when the NBA threatens to buy out the ABA in a merger that could possibly close the Tropic’s franchise forever. It’s up to Will Ferrell to get his losing team to winning status if he wants to save them from impending doom and the inevitable closing of their doors. It’s a story that definitely could have worked in the right hands. I mean, Dodgeball worked, and that’s almost the exact same story: Underdogs looking to lose their territory fight back to hilarious results. Seriously, what could possibly go wrong?

Apparently, everthing though, as Semi-Pro quickly shows in the very first few scenes of the movie. Will Arnett playing a smarmy announcer donning a very 70s’ style mustache should work in theory, so why doesn’t it?

And Andre Benjamin, who’s great in everything he does, also seems to just hang around and do nothing, as his character, Clarence Withers/Coffee Black/and other names that are equally un-funny, doesn’t have a single smile worthy moment in the entire film. Not a signle one. Hey ya, Hollywood, what are you doing? Andre Benjamin pretty much epitomizes the entire concept of the word fun, so how could you possibly render the Outkast star charmless?

And then there’s Woody Harrelson, playing the role of a washed up, love-sick former basketball champion who comes to the aid of the Tropics in their dire time of need. As soon as Woody Harrelson gives his, I-hate-my-current-life scowl and starts kicking in cop car windows, you wonder if anybody on the set actually told him to loosen up as he looks like he just stepped off the wrong sound stage. This is a shame, too, as Harrelson has already proven that he could do basketball dramedy in White Men Can’t Jump, but that’s also a huge problem with Semi-Pro—you really can’t tell which direction this film is heading in.

Of course, if it has Will Ferrell screaming and making a lot of noise, it has to be a comedy, right? But there are just too many dour moments in the film that completely sour the deal. With Woody Harrelson’s depressed character, it’s obvious that we’re not going to get any memorable catch-phrases from him, but with Will Ferrell, we expect more; much more. At times, though, Will Ferrell’s character seems just as pathetic and yearning for something more as Harrelson’s character, and not to comedic effect as you’d see in other over-the-top Will Ferrell movies that have just the right touch of heart and character to make them classics.

Overall, it’s the lack of laughs, good characters, and famous Ferrell-isms, that ultimately hamper this misguided movie. Semi-Pro is one missed jump shot too many in a stream of questionable Will Ferrell films that don’t quite live up to the hype of the name on the marquee poster.

The Disc: 2 stars

I applaud New Line Cinema for sticking two different versions of the film, an unrated, slightly raunchier version, and the original, theatrical one, on the disc, but the differences are so minimal that you barely even realize that there are differences between the two at all. So minimal are these differences, in fact, that I’m not even really sure if there are any differences between the two versions besides an added F bomb here, and a little more nudity there. In the end, you feel cheated for watching both versions of the movie, especially when the movie is as atrocious as it is and doesn’t warrant being watched a second time through.

The biggest problem with the disc though is that the added unrated version is the only real special feature on the entire disc. Seriously, where are the deleted scenes, where are the television promos, and where is the much needed, audio commentary? I mean, even for a terrible movie like Semi-Pro, I expect some kind of special features for its big time release. Instead, we’re left with the ability to turn on subtitles or check out new movies that are coming out soon for DVD and Blu Ray. Come on, New Line, don’t people who shilled out money for this movie deserve more than just an unrated version that might as well just be the regular version? Is that all you’re really have to offer us, guys? Unfortanely, this lack of special features looks to be a trend in a lot of DVD’s these days, and not just for an outrightly bad Will Ferrell movie that can’t land a comic alley oop to save its life.

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