Will Ferrell makes a lot of movies, a surprising number of which are related to sports.
Blades of Glory, Talladega Nights and Kicking & Screaming, which was discussed in a previous column, each take a look at different sports from their own unique points of view. But one Ferrell film that was lost in the mix amongst the barrage of movies he’s released since 2000 is Semi-Pro.
This period piece released in 2008 focuses on a team in the American Basketball Association, an alternative to the NBA on the verge of a merger mid-1970s. Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, a musician who took his money and bought the Tropics, a failing ABA team based out of Flint, Michigan. He’s now the owner, coach and power forward.
Of course. Why not?
When Moon finds out that his team will be dissolved instead of participating in the merger, he sets out on a quest to prove the value of his franchise and keep it alive. In addition to his star player portrayed by Andre Benjamin of Outkast, Moon recruits Ed Monix, an old warhorse of a player with an NBA Championship ring on his way to retirement. The Tropics are the worst team in the league, so the task ahead of them is huge. And Jackie moon’s insane promotions to draw in attendees are more of a hindrance than anything else.
Monix is played wonderfully by Woody Harrelson, whose character steals the show. What first appears to be the story of Jackie Moon trying to save his team is really the story of Ed Monix trying to find an exit strategy from the world of basketball. Instead, he ends up loving the game again.
Naturally, there’s a girl involved played by Maura Tierney of NewsRadio fame. She’s the ex-girlfriend of Monix and current girlfriend of his biggest fan, played creepily by Rob Corddry. The driving force of the story is watching Monix search for love and meaning in his life. The rest of the characters are deceptively dragged along in his wake.
Like most oddball Ferrell flicks, it’s the supporting cast that makes this work. Tim Meadows, Andy Richter, Jackie Earle Haley, Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, David Koechner, Matt Walsh and Patti LaBelle are just some of the people that lend their amazing talents to this film. But it’s Will Arnett and Andrew Daly that take it up a notch as the wholly unprofessional house commentators for the Tropics. They do the commentating on the floor for TV and radio broadcasts. They do a weekly talk show on local TV. And Arnett’s Lou Redwood is thoroughly inappropriate and frightening over the line at times. When confronted by his broadcasting colleague about smoking on air, he simply replies that he smokes when he drinks. Then continues smoking and drinking on air.
Pure professionalism personified.
Ultimately, Semi-Pro is a better than average formulaic comedy that offers a unique setting with some solid laughs. If nothing else, the Jackie Moon song “Love Me Sexy” is worth checking the movie out for as it’s played behind the opening sequence when he gives the most awful on court entrance introductions to his own players. And it’s not a bad film to help get you psyched up for the next Anchorman.
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Let’s get Tropical!