Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Will Ferrell has a strange record for sports comedies - Blades Of Glory (2007), Kicking And Screaming (2005), Talladega Nights (2006) - all critically disliked and sporting mixed box office returns. And now Semi-Pro - a strange, tepid mixture of basketball drama and comedy set in what television and dull popular culture remembers as being the Seventies.

Ferrell, the current Saturday Night Live king of "love him or hate him" comedy stars as Jackie Moon, the captain (and owner) of the Flint Michigan Tropics. They're a down on its luck - aren't they all? - basketball team, made up of underdogs who want their shot in the NBA. And, like Rocky, they get their title chance through some freakish precedent - the best four ABA teams will merge with the NBA. In an effort to avoid being disbanded, Jackie hires Monix (Woody Harrelson), an ageing basketball star to coach his hopeless team to making it to 4th place.

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The movie is a laugh-sparse comedy, dribbling along with recycled jokes and setups from Blades Of Glory. Unpopular sport, freakish fashion sense and hair - it's all here. Everything about the movie can be predicted from the get-go, and it's closest cinematic counterpart is most likely Kingpin - the Farrelly Brothers bowling sports comedy spanning some of the same timeframe and references. Harrelson, who stars in both, tries to make up the deficiencies in the script with some fairly decent timing - but he is no Bill Murray, who stole the show with improv in Kingpin. Andre Benjamin, as the Tropics star player gives a decent performance, as though he's unaware he's in a boring movie. And Ferrell's Jackie Moon never crosses from annoying into sympathetic.

Satire might have been a more appropriate scheme for this story, but by trying to keep it as a straight-up comedy, it veers all over the place. Potentially interesting but cut down romantic subplots, constantly masturbating side-characters and the effort to get more people into the arena are all thrown into the plot with little care or consequence for dramatic or comedic timing. Surprisingly enough for a Will Ferrell movie - Semi-Pro sports quite a potty mouth, "Muthaf**kin' c**ksucker!" being the insulting catchphrase of choice.

Semi-Pro is not Boat Trip scandalously awful, but it's not good either - it's just taking up space, really. Director Kent Alterman shows little promise beyond a basic handling of story, camera and actors - and the obvious comic talent is wasted, with Ferrell playing it safe after Bewitched.

Semi-Pro? Semi-bloody-funny, more like.

Reviewed on: 11 Mar 2008
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Basketball comedy with a loud mouth.
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Director: Kent Alterman

Writer: Scot Armstrong

Starring: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin, Maura Tierney, Andrew Daly, Will Arnett, Andy Richter, David Koechner, Rob Corddry, Matt Walsh, Jackie Earle Haley

Year: 2008

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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If you like this, try:

Blades Of Glory