Throw comedy everyman Will Ferrell into a zany project that deals with the rise and fall of a lovable idiot and the outcome will be golden – that seems to be the thought process behind Semi-Pro, Ferrell’s first official bomb (even if it does well in theaters, which it will).
In Semi-Pro Will plays Jackie Moon, a loud-mouthed Lothario who owns, coaches and plays for the Flint Tropics, an absolutely terrible ABA basketball team on the verge of losing what little audience and respect they have. Luckily for Moon, the NBA wants to absorb a few teams from the ABA, giving his squad a chance to hit the big time. Of course, his ego gets in the way, trotting out lavish (on a budget) half time shows where the team dresses up in Seahorse and Flamingo costumes while getting down to “Love Sexy,” Moon’s disco excursion that gave him his one and only hit.
Going to any length to get his team some recognition, Moon makes a questionable trade involving an important team player (no spoilers here!) for Monix (Woody Harrelson), the Washed Up Legend Out to Prove His Worth. Let us not forget to mention Clarence ‘Coffee’ Black (Andre Benjamin) the Competent and Honest Basketball Player Out to Make His Mama Proud. The stereotypes run amok in Semi-Pro, but that’s expected. The problem here is the lack of original comedy.
The gags are good and plenty in Semi-Pro, but the entire movie is bogged down by a sense of familiarity. How many times can you laugh at Farrell flipping the f*** out for no apparent reason? Ok, bad example – but how many times can you laugh at the same exact premise that has been used in, oh, four movies to date? It’s the same old story, this time told on a basketball court in the 70s.
Blades of Glory and yes, Talladega Nights were both questionable character retreads at best, but Semi-Pro is dangerously close to Adam Sandler territory. And once you’re at that point, there’s no turning back. Note to Ferrell: steer clear of these goofy exploitations, or Mr. Deeds Bigalow 3: The Story of Turd Ferguson could be your next project.