In Will Ferrell’s newest film, he takes on the role of an egotistical, self-centered basketball player who lives a lavish lifestyle – complete with hordes of beautiful women, expensive liquor and acute fame. (If this is all beginning to sound familiar, it should.) No, Ricky Bobby (“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”) is not attempting to be a two-sport athlete and no, Ron Burgundy (“Anchorman”) is not leaving the newsroom. Instead, Ferrell takes on the role of Jackie Moon, a singer-turned-basketball business mogul/player in his latest film, “Semi-Pro” (New Line Cinema, 2008). And while Ferrell’s latest persona draws striking similarities to some of his previous roles (“Anchorman,” “Old School”), “Semi-Pro,” manages to offer a bit of fresh humor to Ferrell’s usual cinematic lunacy.
Set in 1976, singer Jackie Moon purchases a fictitious ABA basketball team based in Flint, Mich., when his only song, “Love Me Sexy,” tops the charts. After assuming ownership of the Flint Tropics, Moon also hires himself as the team’s coach and takes up the role of starting power-forward.
The Tropics’ woes are evident, and their performance on the court is almost as laughable as their attendance. Their games frequently become spectacles as Jackie Moon’s antics often find him leaving the floor far before game’s end. Not even Moon’s perfectly groomed afro seems to translate into wins.
With the league on the brink of extinction, a merger with the NBA is proposed – one that would take on the four best ABA teams and leave the rest of the league to dissolve. While Moon’s Tropics are in no shape to qualify, they assume the role of the underdog and rally to make a climb in their standing. They acquire a former NBA player in Monix, played by Woody Harrelson, (“No Country For Old Men,” “White Men Can’t Jump”) who is on the tail end of his career, especially given that Moon trades the team’s washing machine for him.
The film follows the circus that is the Tropics’ season and rides it through to the end. Woody Harrelson’s character begins to lift the team from the trenches as he is involved in his own Flint romantic side saga with the lovely Maura Tierney (“Welcome to Mooseport,” “Liar Liar”). Also a member of the Tropics, Outkast’s André Benjamin plays ‘Coffee’ Black, the team’s best player and most vocal critic. Many familiar faces from Will Ferrell’s films also make significant cameos, invoking a laugh here and there through recognition.
“Semi-Pro,” does manage to strike some funny moments throughout its predictability. Jackie Moon shows off Ferrell’s talent for his usual role of an egomaniac, and does manage to make you laugh along the way. Ultimately, “Semi-Pro,” will offer exactly what its viewers expect, just nothing more. The film beats the 70’s retro throwback theme to death, which seems to be nothing less than unoriginal in the last few years. Ferrell simply adds another sport to his tally of closely related films with this rendition of “The Bad News Bears” (1976).
“Semi-Pro” is now playing in theaters nationwide.