Directed by: Kent Alterman
Premise: In the 1970s, a low ranking ABA basketball team rallies under a goofy owner and head coach (Will Ferrell) to save their season before the league is merged into the NBA.
What Works: The film alternates between standard sports film scenarios, in which the team of underdogs comes together under the leadership of a former NBA player (Woody Harrelson), and stunts the owner and coach puts on to promote the team, such as wrestling a bear. The story written for Woody Harrelson’s character is fairly compelling and he is given the best scenes in the film. The stunts by Ferrell’s character are funny in and of themselves and will elicit a few laughs.
What Doesn’t: The fatal flaw of Semi-Pro is its inability to reconcile these two elements. The promotions put on by Ferrell’s character are only relevant for the moment they appear on screen; the scenes do not connect to anything else in the story and just become excuses for Ferrell to act like an idiot. These stunts divert attention from the cliché riddled basketball story, which relies on scenarios that have been done before and done better in a million other movies. Although Harrelson gets some interesting moments in the film, they don’t add up to anything. The humor of the movie is very scattershot, with the filmmakers leaning on Ferrell to pull out his likable moron routine whenever they need a laugh. But it’s not enough to save Semi-Pro, and the entire film has a lazy feel about it; apparently no effort went into the story, the jokes, the characters, the acting, or the basketball choreography and that lack of effort is painfully obvious on screen.
Bottom Line: Semi-Pro is a film about minor league basketball, but the title might as well describe the efforts put forth by the filmmakers. It’s a lazy picture that cynically believes that its star power will distract from the film’s absence of effort.
Episode: #181 (March 9, 2008)