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Starring: Will Ferrell, Andre Benjamin, Woody Harrelson, Jay Phillips

Directed by: Kent Alterman

Produced by: Jimmy Miller

Written by: Scot Armstrong

Distributor: New Line Cinema


      Usually, I’m willing to go wherever Will Ferrell wants to take me as a viewer. Through countless motion pictures, the actor has proven that he’s more worth his salt, both as a comedian and as a dramatic performer. Whatever claims cinematic elitists may have made in years past, all arguments against Ferrell’s success have proven largely unwarranted. The casual viewer can enter any given Ferrell comedy and expect to laugh their ass off; the man is that consistent.

     My lofty opinion of Ferrell makes his latest “comedy,” Semi-Pro, all the more of a dud. It’s easily the worst picture of the actor’s career, totally laugh-less in its execution. Ferrell is a great comedian when he’s delivering well-scripted material, often finding the perfect balance between the planned and the unplanned.Semi-Pro, however, operates on a cliché and boring screenplay by Scot Armstrong (The Heartbreak Kid, School for Scoundrels), and hence proves that Ferrell’s range is not unlimited. Everything the lead actor noticeably improvises in the movie has been seen out of him before and, without anywhere else to roam creatively, his performance plummets.

     The central problem with the film is that it exists exclusively as an underdog sports-story, never fully realizing that it’s supposed to be a laugh-riot, much less one starring Ferrell. In fact, Semi-Pro could easily be turned into a feel-good Disney basketball flick with a few minor edits. Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, a laughing-stock of an owner/coach/player for the Flint Tropics, the worst basketball team in the American Basketball Association. Jackie is heartbroken when he is told that his team will be terminated when the ABA merges with the NBA, absorbing only four teams in the deal (the Tropics not being one of them). Outraged, Jackie convinces the league-commissioner to allow the four teams with the best records at the end of the season to live on. The commissioner agrees and, suddenly, the flailing Tropics have their work cut out for them.

     Sure, there are some typical Ferrell comedy-bits sporadically woven into the material. (These usually involve the riotous “promotions” that Jackie creates for the Tropics once the commissioner tells him that he must bring 2,000 fans into the stands of every game to qualify for the merger, which include half-time bear-fights and choreographed dances.) Still, I can’t help but feel that Ferrell has done most of the physical comedy that he is capable of in years past and developed a persona around it. Going into Semi-Pro, the area where I really wanted to see him excel was in his delivery of bitingly-written comedy, something that did not happen because said bitingly-written comedy proved conspicuously absent from the equation.

     Another factor that hurts Ferrell’s comedic-chops in Semi-Pro is the fact that the studio allowed the film to be rated R. Contrary to what one might assume, this does not allow the actor to be humorously offensive or grotesquely satirical. Instead, it provides him an excuse to throw around a few more F-bombs than he is used to and star in a movie that includes a thoroughly pointless sex-scene. Part of the reason that Kicking and Screaming and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Ferrell’s past two sports-related adventures, were so successful is because they forced Ferrell to think outside of the conventional vulgar, Comedic-Box because of their studio-mandated PG-13 ratings. He was not allowed to mindlessly engage in the middle-school-playground humor of Semi-Pro.

     If you get the feeling that I’m having a hard time writing about Semi-Pro, that’s because I am. It is literally one of the most conventional, uninspired movies I have seen in ages. The only reason why it retains a two-bucket rating from me is because of the mere fact that, in its short ninety minutes, it never becomes extraordinarily offensive or painful. To conclude on a note as blunt and obvious as the movie itself: there’s absolutely no reason to shell out $10 for admission to Semi-Pro.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 2.29.2008

Screened on: 2.27.2008 at the Mann Chinese 6 in Hollywood, CA.


Semi-Pro is rated R and runs 90 minutes.

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