SEMI-PRO was one of the "compromise" movies I routinely get from Netflix to satisfy my wife's cinematic desires. Which is not to say I was adverse to the decision - I definitely enjoy me a good Will Ferrell flick. SEMI-PRO doesn't exactly deliver on that - it's no ANCHORMAN, or even THE LEGEND OF RICKY BOBBY. But it's a damn bit funnier than the recent STEP BROTHERS, so in the Ferrell pantheon it gets a passing grade.
Ferrell plays Jackie Moon: owner, coach, player, and promoter for the Flint Michigan Tropics, an ABA team in the waning days of the league, a team just about as bad as can be imagined. Which is the point, considering this is pretty much a by-the-numbers feel good underdog story. When it's announced that the ABA is going to merge with the NBA and that the top 4 teams will be absorbed, Jackie makes it his mission to ensure his team's place in the league. This includes things like attempting a roller skate jump over 47 feet of Tropic Ball Girls, and wrestling a bear. Everything but actually focusing on playing the game. To that end Moon hires bad boy and ex-NBA champ Ed Monix (played by Woody Harrelson in a welcome return to basketball movies) who quickly moves from hated teammate to learned guru, teaching the team to be an actual team using rousing speeches, grueling practice drills and, in one instance, a punch to the jejunum, which if nothing else was a lesson in anatomy for me.
Yes, SEMI-PRO is predictable. Tone-wise it moves all over the place and doesn't quite settle anywhere. And it's Will Ferrell doing pretty much exactly what he always does. All that being said, I still laughed. The scene with the bear wrestling is pretty hysterical, if only for Ferrell's ridiculous warnings once the bear gets loose in the stadium. Everyone else does their jobs well, especially a brief appearance by Jackie Earle Haley as a hippie who makes a once in a lifetime free throw. So, as much as my senses tell me that SEMI-PRO is a bad movie, in the end I laughed a lot more than I anticipated, and that can't be a bad thing.