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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

SEMI-PRO (2008)

SEMI-PRO tells the story of the Flint Tropics, a piss-poor ABA basketball team in 1976 Michigan, and their owner/manager/power forward Jackie Moon's (Will Ferrell) efforts to merge them into the NBA. It's the same tired sports underdog story that we've seen a jillion times and this take on it offers nothing to keep the viewer involved with the team's plight, meandering as it does from would-be humorous set piece to would-be humorous set piece, accented with gratuitous profanity in an attempt to render the material "adult," with not even the most tepid of payoffs. There's also a subplot involving Woody Harrelson's character joining up with the team mostly because it puts him into close proximity with his ex-girlfriend (Maura Tierney in one of the most thankless female lead roles in recent memory) and it's a narrative thread that goes absolutely nowhere. By the time the film lurches to its turgid conclusion you'll only care because the damned thing is finally over, and that's pretty sad when you consider that there's a scene in which Ferrell fights a bear as a promotional stunt, but then again even that gag falls painfully flat.

The best things about this movie are its soundtrack that's a cornucopia of familiar '70's funk tunes (and Jackie Moon's so-appallingly-bad-it's good hit record, "Love Me Sexy," a would-be sexy tune that would be very effective as birth control) and a bit in which we discover Jackie Moon's mom is played by Patti LaBelle, the joke being that she's a negro and Jackie isn't, a gag used to much greater effect thirty years ago in THE JERK, so what the viewer comes away with when all is said and done is the cinematic equivalent of a baloney sandwich made with Wonder bread and no condiments that's been left out in the rain.

Will Ferrell bares his soul as Jackie Moon.

To be honest I like Ferrell and appreciate his willingness to do damned near anything to make us laugh (see the above photo), but I find most of his films to have an overwhelming sameness that that yields less and less depending on which one you've just sat through. For the record my favorite of his flicks is BLADES OF GLORY thanks to the sheer absurdity of his uber-macho metalhead-ish douchebag of a men's figure skater and ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY benefits from being another skewering of macho shitheads with the underrated Christina Applegate providing welcome counterpoint, but TALADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY just didn't grab me. And then last night I sat through SEMI-PRO because it happened to be on TV (come to think of it, I've never gone out of my way to see any of Ferrell's movies, usually catching them on DVD or cable). Thanks to the staggeringly mediocre experience I had while watching this film, I hereby state that after his take on LAND OF THE LOST I officially give up on Will Ferrell's output unless I am given solid guarantees that whatever he turns out in future will be worth sitting through and in some way deviates from his formula.

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