Semi-Pro DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

Usually Ferrell's yarns rake in the dough, but perhaps this one didn't because it was because this was something different, with a lot more than you'd expect out of Ferrell, and that is truly a shame becaue I enjoyed this movie quite a bit.
  • OVERALL
    4.0
    GREAT
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
A well-rounded performance from Will Ferrell, a smashing supporting cast and an equally-well-rounded script from Scot Armstrong.
THE BAD
A few misfired jokes here and there and the lack of special features is annoying.
THE FEATURE
I was certainly not the first to jump on the Will Ferrell bandwagon. While I did love his inventive stuff on SNL, his early movie work just didn't appeal too much to me. He had some funny moments, sure, but his performances in "Old School" and Anchorman were too over-the-top to the point of annoyance. I started to come around after Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and it seems that he keeps getting better ever since. Oddly enough, while Semi-Pro might not have been his biggest hit at the box office ($33.4 million domestic), I think it's one of his better films.

One of the problems I've had with Ferrell's earlier work like Old School or Anchorman, is is just seems to relish his job a little too much, taking things farther than they need to go. While, yes, he was playing crazy characters in those flicks, it seemed that they gave him free reign to improv and just be Will Ferrell instead of the characters he was playing.

Here, while the best parts of Ferrell's humor are still intact, he seems to have a full grasp of his character here, one-hit-wonder singer Jackie Moon, who used the profits from that one song, "Love Me Sexy," to purchase his very own basketball team in the ABA, the Flint Tropics. While the team plays rather poorly, the franchise is kept barely afloat by Moon's outrageous promotions, anything to get people in the stands. He's also a player and head coach of the team as well, so he's involved with all sides of his business. Think Mark Cuban, only taller with a huge 1976 white-fro. While the rumors of a merger with the NBA are proven to be true, it seems that Moon's team will be left behind until, after a hilarious tantrum, Moon convinces that "the terms of the merger be performance-based" ("What he said..."). Basically, the four teams with the best records get into the NBA, and Jackie makes a move to acquire a washed-up player named Monix (Woody Harrelson) to fire up his team that currently dwells in the cellar. Hoops hilarity ensues.

The flick does have a Major League-ish sort of feel to it, with Harrelson's Monix coming to a losing team and reuniting with his former flame, Lynn (Maura Tierney), but with the 70s setting and hilarious pop culture references, mostly from the scene-stealing commentators played by Andrew Daly and Will Arnett, the comedy does certainly stand out in other ways. While the supporting cast is rounded out quite nicely by Andre "3000" Benjamin, who plays the Tropics' star "Coffee Black," David Koechner as the league's commissioner, Andy Richter as Bobby Dee, Jay Phillips as the Tropics' Scootsie Doubleday and my old college friend Josh Braaten as Twiggy Munson (along with some great cameos by Tim Meadows and Jackie Earle Haley) this is surely Will Ferrell's show.

He really delivers a wonderful performance, reaching levels we've never really seen him reach before in, dare I say it, range. He's got a lot going on in this flick and he pulls it all off wonderfully. Screenwriter Scott Armstrong, who penned Old School as well as Starsky and Hutch and a number of other recent comedies, turns in his most developed script here, with plenty of comedy, a few twinges of drama and a nice homage to the 70s in general. Sure, a lot of the bits don't work so well, but the ending is actually quite genius and overall it's quite a funny script. Kent Alterman makes a smashing directorial debut after many years as a comedy producer and after watching the movie, it's quite surprising this is his first time at the helm.

Semi-Pro is a movie that I really wonder why it tanked at the box office. Usually Ferrell's yarns rake in the dough, but perhaps this one didn't because it was because this was something different, with a lot more than you'd expect out of Ferrell, and that is truly a shame becaue I enjoyed this movie quite a bit.
THE EXTRAS
Sorry folks. Nothing to see here. Only on the two-disc edition. Lame.
THE VIDEO
The disc features both the widescreen presentation, in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the fullscreen presentation, in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
THE AUDIO
You can hear all the funky 70s rhythms through the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Ex format.
THE PACKAGE
Pretty lame here, but that's usually the case with these single-disc releases when there's a phat two-disc release day-and-date. The front cover just has a big title card up top and a shot of Will Ferrell in the middle, flanked by Andre "3000" Benjamin and Woody Harrelson with a small critic quote at the bottom. The back features a shot of Ferrell shooting a free throw granny style, a synopsis, some random pics and the billing block and tech specs. Not so good.
THE FINAL WORD
Semi-Pro is just proof that Will Ferrell is getting better and better. It's a damn-funny flick with even a little substance thrown in as well... a LITTLE. Still, if you're a fan of Ferrell, Semi-Pro is a must have and to those who used to think about Ferrell in sketchy terms like I did, this one might make you come around.

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