Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory and now Semi-Pro - Will Ferrell continues to take on the wide world of sports, always with the same okay-but-not-great results. In Semi-Pro, it's basketball season, and if I told you Ferrell can't dribble, pass or shoot worth a damn, you probably won't be disappointed. But if I told you he doesn't really show us anything we haven't seen before, would you? Ferrell's stint on Saturday Night Live proved that his psyche contains multitudes, but in his movies he's settled into the role of the doofus blinded by self-confidence. This time, he's Jackie Moon, a '70s legend in his own mind who owns, coaches, plays for and relentlessly promotes a semi-pro (if that) team called the Flint Tropics.
That's Flint as in Flint, Michigan - Michael Moore's old stomping grounds, which appears to have been chosen for its middle-of-nowhere ennui. The Tropics, with their inexplicable palm-tree mascot, are the Bad News Bears of the American Basketball Association, the real-life organization that brought us the slam dunk, the three-point shot and Dr. J before merging with the NBA in 1976. But this is before the merger, and in order to avoid being left off the roster the Tropics are going to have to pick up their game. So far, they've gotten by on pizzazz - bear-wrestling, for example. And to say that Ferrell gives his all while in the ring with what appears to be a real grizzly is to engage in understatement. He gives 110%, as usual.
And it works about 55% of the time. He's been accessorized with a white-boy Afro, Mack Daddy threads and a player's uniform with trunks so skimpy so as to provide us with yet one more look as his pasty white thighs. Also suiting up are OutKast's André Benjamin as a genuine NBA prospect and Woody Harrelson as a former Celtic on his way back down the ladder of success. For the women in the audience, Harrelson has been given a love interest, played by Maura Tierney, and they do their little Bull Durham number. But the rest of the movie is basically a men's locker room translated to the big screen. Everybody cusses like a sailor, which probably accounts for the R rating. And I must confess, I kept falling for it. I felt like I was back in sixth grade.
I didn't feel like I was back in the '70s, however. That's all been stamped on, like so many sight gags. (You've seen one polyester leisure suit, you've seen them all.) Then again, authenticity isn't the goal here. Hilarity is. And Semi-Pro is funny enough often enough to justify the time and expense. One only wonders what sport Ferrell will try out for next. Jai alai?