“Semi-Pro” is semi-awful

R, 90 minutes, New Line Cinema

Hey, has anyone heard? Funnyman Will Ferrell is tackling an entirely new thing he’s never done, with his new film – he’s portraying a cocky sports figure that is frequently animate and outrageous to frightening levels. Oh wait, he’s already done that at least three other times that I can think of. Yes it’s true, we’re going to have to wait until the summer when the Judd Apatow-produced Step Brothers is released to see if Ferrell is going to deliver any consistent humor in 2008. Apart from not breaking any new ground at all his new film, Semi-Pro, fails to even provide us with good ol’ raunchy entertainment. The film is certainly not without some laughs, there’s just never any kind of consistency established, which is mostly due to the terrible denial of supporting characters’ development and boring on-the-court sequences.

Set in the early 70’s, Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, the owner/promoter/starting forward of a fictional ABA basketball team called the Flint Tropics. Moon is such an arrogant and dumbfounding character that he would make anything the actor has played so far look like a puppy-like figure, including the insanely over-the-top prude he played last year in Blades of Glory. This is really not a bad thing, to push the limits and try to go extremely far with the craziness of Moon, but Ferrell doesn’t have the touch he can so often pull out of nowhere and charm us with. He’s got a severely mediocre script he’s working from, and it shows. This is the type of film that you can tell the actor’s are starving to bring their own improvisational quips just to do anything to bring the aura some extra amount of credibility. The Tropics are a horribly bad team, with none of them playing together and they couldn’t care less. Andre Benjamin plays a fast and talented player, who if he only had the strive to want to succeed could make himself attractive to NBA scouts. Benjamin is far more talented than the majority of musicians-turned-actors and he is a good choice to play this role, but his character is never dealt with in any kind of significant way. Instead, when we are taking a break from Jackie Moon we are introduced to sour characters like the unfunny announcers, played by Will Arnett and Andrew Daily, Moon’s boring business partner (Andy Richter), and the local love interest (Maura Tierney) of a washed-up player agreeing to play for the Tropics, played by Woody Harrelson. Harrelson plays this character and although he gives a fine performance, he cannot escape the blatant fact that the role is dying for a lengthy skim through and re-hash.

This is basically what Semi-Pro ultimately amounts to – semi-trash. Nearly everything about the movie either seems not fleshed out enough or just plain ordinary. There is certainly a funny movie somewhere in here that could have been dug up had the filmmakers and writers took a little more time to find it. Ferrell is very funny at times in this film, but the movie’s flaws gets the better of him this time. He cannot overcome everything to standout enough to make us disregard the glaring errors made throughout all aspects of the movie, and it definitely doesn’t help that the main supporting players either aren’t funny in the slightest (Arnett) or just don’t get substantial material to draw from (Harrelson). There are some key small roles that I wish would have gotten some more face time, like Tim Meadows, Jackie Earle Haley, and Kristen Wiig who provide nice laughs when they show up. Ferrell is at a point in his career where audiences come to each of his films expecting something extremely funny, for he has set a high standard, and this one is a major disappointment, without a doubt.

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