Semi-Pro is funny but is that enough?

Semi-Pro opens with the soothing vibrations of main character Jackie Moon’s hit single “Love Me Sexy” a silky little soul ballad that puts the white in Barry and toes the line with its unusually suggestive lyrics. The hilarious song plays over a montage of newspaper articles establishing Will Ferrell’s Moon as a one-hit wonder who decides to purchase an American Basketball Association (ABA) franchise in Flint Michigan with the wages accrued from his 15 minutes of fame. This business decision appears to have been made just for the hell of it yet Moon embraces it with the fervour and stupidity indigenous to the line of supremely confident dullards Ferrell has built his career playing. In addition to being the team’s owner coach and apparent marketing director Moon is the starting power forward in spite of his man-breasts and complete lack of basketball acumen. The Flint Tropics are introduced as a chuckleheaded bunch of rock-droppers with ineptitude to match Moon’s. The team’s one truly skilled player is Clarence “Coffee Black” Withers (Andre Benjamin) and even he is an overconfident underachiever. It’s only when the team is faced with the prospect of NBA legitimacy (in a typical sports-flick move the top four ABA teams will change leagues while the rest close shop) that Moon invests in a knowledgeable veteran former NBA champion benchwarmer Ed Monix played by Woody Harrelson. Monix and Withers serve as dramatic counterpoints to Moon’s shtick though it is mostly Monix that benefits from a modicum of character development.

The tri-lead cast suggests Semi-Pro’s producers are aware they’re following at least three other Ferrell excursions with strikingly similar heroes and that some semblance of dramatic backbone is needed to support the film’s length. Ferrell’s Moon is virtually indistinguishable from Ron Burgundy Ricky Bobby and Chazz Michael Michaels and Semi-Pro ’s structure comedic rhythm name-brand supporting cast and obsession with ’70s popular culture are all reminiscent of the “Frat Pack” flicks that precede it. The result is a funny enough first half that the audience is willing to get on board. However the more viewer expectations adjust to match the emotional slapstick broken logic and gleeful profanity perpetrated by the film’s many characters the more the audience becomes immune.

Semi-Pro represents a struggle between the comedic film and the comedian: is the comedy merely a vehicle for the lead joker to unleash his manic gifts or is the comedian a vessel for the unfolding narrative and its broader themes? The film does nothing to solve this timeless riddle. It’s true that the movie lacks a point but that is the point. Most viewers will laugh and anyone who doesn’t had plenty of prior warning from Ferrell’s previous outings.

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