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Rated 2.97 stars
by 637 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Dropping the Ball
by Betty Jo Tucker

I hate to pan any movie starring one of my favorite funnymen, Will Ferrell, but Semi-Pro deserves a thorough bashing. Lame jokes, crude humor and ridiculous characters fill the screen -- but the worst thing about this disappointing comedy involves Ferrell himself. For the first time ever, he failed to make me laugh even once.

Granted, Jackie Moon, the character Ferrell plays here, appears somewhat interesting during opening scenes. He’s a promoter, coach, performer and owner of a Flint, Michigan, basketball team called The Tropics. Also, because the story takes place in 1976, Jackie’s clothes and hairstyle look outrageous, offering hope for amusing things to come. Sadly, hopes shatter as each comic idea or situation introduced soon ends in a complete disaster. A wild poker game, a bear fight, and a half-time extravaganza with players clad like fugitives from Disney’s Little Mermaid show potential but sink faster than Taylor Hicks’ fame.

Predictability can be expected in sports movies, of course, but Semi-Pro carries this tradition to extremes. Does the underdog team win the important Flint Megabowl? Does their best player finally earn an NBA spot? Do the squabbling team members ever learn to respect each other and begin to play some real basketball? The suspense never starts.    

In all fairness, I admit not being a basketball fan. Perhaps viewers who know more about this sport will find something positive about Semi-Pro. They might like the film’s fantasy explanation of how the “Alley Oop” shot came about or the way the movie depicts a merger between two basketball leagues.  Still, I doubt if they will appreciate Ferrell’s continuous over-the-top mugging. In his previous  performances, this talented comedian seemed to believe in the characters he portrayed, no matter how outlandish they behaved. Not so with Jackie Moon, who’s like a caricature of a caricature. I absolutely loved Ferrell in Elf, Blades of Glory, Talledega Nights -- and, yes, in the more dramatic Stranger than Fiction. What happened to that Will Ferrell?

Supporting cast members Andy Richter (Blades of Glory), Rob Corddry (The Heartbreak Kid) and lovely Maura Tierney (Welcome to Mooseport) add little to the entertainment value of the film, but they don’t have much to work with. However, André Benjamin (Idlewild) delivers an impressive turn as a terrific basketball player trapped in a second-rate team. He’s totally believable in this key role.  Woody Harrelson (A Prairie Home Companion) also lends credibility to his character, an athlete at the end of the road who comes to realize how much basketball really means to him.    

Believe it or not, after being so critical of Will Ferrell in this movie, I’m still eager to see his next film, Step Brothers. Guess that’s the test of a true fan.    

(Released by New Line Cinema and rated “R” for language and some sexual content.)

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