Semi-Pro (2008)

Semi-Pro (2008)

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Ferrell had a most unfortunate testicular problem.
Ferrell had a most unfortunate testicular problem.

Twitter Plot Summary: Small time basketball manager Jackie Moon tried to get his washed up team into the NBA.

Five Point Summary:

1. A retard joke. We’re off to a good start.
2. A twist on Russian roulette.
3. He really is a super fan, isn’t he?
4. Bear fight!
5. Aaaand end credits. You’re probably grateful.

What the world has apparently been crying out for is Will Ferrell is Jackie Moon, a washed up basketball player in 70s America for the Flint Michigan Tropics. After the ABA decide to merge with the NBA and the Tropics are on the verge of being closed down, Moon persuades the committee to put the top 4 league teams through at the close of the season. Now all he has to do is get his washed-up Tropics from bottom place and up to the top end of the table. How do you do that in basketball? By making trades, of course. I won’t pretend to know the exact details of how basketball works (for the record I much prefer ice hockey), but whilst big-haired Will Ferrell is the marketing focus (and the same character he plays everywhere else), it’s really about newcomer to the team, former NBA star Monix (Harrelson), at such a low ebb in his career he’s traded for a washing machine. Thankfully Monix knows a thing or two about basketball and he helps get them up to scratch.

The jokes feel identical to those in Anchorman, Blades of Glory and so on, as does the cast list. The majority of players in this are part of the same Saturday Night Live-era Frat Pack, so that likely explains the massive sense of deja-vu. Some of the gags are, however, simply hilarious. A game of cards that turns into Russian Roulette is much fun, as is the regular commentary from Will Arnett and Andrew Daly is gold, and the fight between Will Ferrell and a bear is completely stupid but at least more entertaining than the Doby sequence in Anchorman 2.

They didn't like his red and white stripes. It clashed with their blue and yellow piping.
They didn’t like his red and white stripes. It clashed with their blue and yellow piping.

Gags that work less well are the relationship between Monix and former love Lynn (Tierney), who is now shacked up with Monix super fan Kyle (Corddry). Whilst Monix and Lynn get it on, rather than being violent or angry, Kyle thinks this is the best thing in the world and decides to watch them. A touch creepy and the joke doesn’t really work – there’s three or four scenes of this sub-plot at most, and it doesn’t really go anywhere. I hate to say it too, but little effort is made to make the story appeal to non-basketball fans. This is fine, to an extent, but when there’s a lot of stuff in the script that’s unrelateable to the wider audience, you’ve already shot yourself in the foot. Ferrell vehicles like Blades of Glory or the similarly plotted Vince Vaughn movie Dodgeball work because you don’t need to know the inner workings of the sport to understand half of what’s going on.

It’s another typical Ferrell movie, which is fine if you’re a fan. As it happens, I am a huge fan, but there are several jokes that will deter a general audience – laughing about mental health is usually frowned upon, after all. With that in mind, no target is off limits for this script, and Ferrell is essentially the same guy he’s played many times before, only this time he has an impressive afro. It’s no work of art, and if you’ve seen Anchorman there’s probably no need to see this, but in my most humblest of opinions most of the jokes hit and the story entertains. Job done in my book.

Score: 3/5

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