Will Ferrell is a comedian who is either loved or despised. In my opinion, Ferrell has starred in some of the best comedies of the past decade, including one of my all-time favorites, “Anchorman.” So it goes without saying that I hold his films to high standards. But going into “Semi-Pro” with any standards is a huge mistake. It’s not only a terrible film, but perhaps one of the worst of Ferrell’s career.
Pop singer and one-hit wonder Jackie Moon (Ferrell) has used the money he earned from his hit single, “Love Me Sexy,” to buy the Flint Tropics, a struggling team in the American Basketball Association (ABA). Moon becomes the owner, promoter, head coach and star player. Despite his enthusiasm, the Tropics have low attendance and a terrible record. However, the rest of the ABA has fallen on hard times too and they’ve agreed to merge with the NBA. The catch is that only four teams are merging. The commissioner informs Moon that if he can bring the Tropics from last place to at least fourth, they’ll be able to join the NBA.
“Pro” is the story of a man who was once on top but has fallen and must reclaim his place among the best of the best. Yes, that’s also the plot for “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights” and “Blades of Glory.” It was getting old in “Glory” and now it’s just absurd and ridiculous. It doesn’t even seem like Ferrell is trying, considering that three of those movies have revolved around sports and two have been set in the ’70s. Ferrell is content with making a quick buck off a crazy idea that studios wouldn’t normally green light in the first place. That may be funny for him, but it’s not for us.
Where else “Pro” falters is in Ferrell’s character, an uninspired and flat protagonist who feels like a caricature of Ferrell’s characters from his SNL days. Moon’s shenanigans aren’t amusing in their absurdity; they’re annoying in their ignorance. It’s hard to watch a film featuring one of the best comedians today when that comedian fails to deliver half as good of a performance as he typically does. Ferrell really dropped the ball on this one.
There’s some confusion as to who the main character really is. Is it Jackie Moon or former NBA player Ed Monix (Woody Harrelson)? Both seem to have as much screen time, yet neither feel like they could carry a three-minute comedy skit, let alone a 90-minute film. It’s depressing to see Harrelson follow “No Country for Old Men” with this pitiful attempt at comedy.
Equally depressing is the supporting cast, which is strong but isn’t given the chance to shine. The best examples of this are the Tropic’s commentators Dick Pepperfield (Andrew Daly) and Lou Redwood (Will Arnett). Both characters have promise and are interesting, unlike the film’s two leads. But they’re not fleshed out characters.
But none of this should really matter as long as the jokes are funny. To say that “Pro” even has jokes would be a flat out lie. The script consists of rejected and recycled material from previous Ferrell comedies, only this time they curse a lot to supposedly make them funny. But swearing for the sake of swearing is rarely funny. And when a comedy’s best joke revolves around fighting a bear, which Ferrell already did in “Anchorman,” you know you’re in for a rough time.
Later this summer, Ferrell has a new comedy coming out called “Step Brothers.” Not only is it a new storyline, but a return to form for the comedian. The trailer for this film ran before “Semi-Pro” and had more laughs and better developed characters, and you can see this on YouTube for free. Do yourself a favor; watch that and forget this mess ever happened.