X-Posted from The Reel.
I used to think that the hardest reviews to write were those for films that I really loved. There are, it seems, far fewer interesting ways to say you love a film than to say it stinks. As Harvey Danger says, “Happiness writes white”.
It turns out that there is a harder review to write: Those for films that are just OK. Will Ferrell's new period-piece sports comedy, Semi-Pro, is just that.
Everyone seems to agree that Will Ferrell is well suited to play the lovable arrogant dim-wit which is why he is back for the 45th time to play that role again. This time, his name is Jackie Moon, and he owns an ABA basketball team in 1976, just before the ABA is abolished, and four of the teams absorbed into the NBA. Moon desperately wants his rag tag bunch of misfits, the Flint, Michigan Tropics, to be one of the new NBA teams and so he recruits a washed-up, jaded ex-NBA player named Monix (Woody Harrelson) to help. While Monix is in Flint, he calls upon an old flame (Maura Tierney), thus bringing some breast and thigh to this sausage fest.
The supporting cast is rounded out by Andre Benjamin (A.K.A. Andre 3000), Will Arnett (TV's Arrested Development, the pants-soiling hilarity of The Brothers Solomon) and Rob Corddry (The Daily Show). Benjamin is *good* as the straight man (and only legitimately talented player on the team) who dreams of playing for the NBA. Arnett and Corddry are *funny* as a sports commentator and the jilted boyfriend of Maura Tierney who doesn't seem to mind. The jokes amusing. The story is engaging and Will Ferrell is competent. But we are pretty much just reinventing the wheel here.
When I think about it, a tropical-themed basketball team in snowy Flint, Michigan should be very funny. Will Ferrell having a dramatic moment whilst dressed as the sun and addressing his teammates in seahorse costumes should be hilarious. As should Will Ferrell fighting a bear, a mustachioed Will Arnett constantly drinking and smoking and insulting his co-anchor, Will Ferrell inciting a brawl during a commercial break and more. But it's nothing more than moderately amusing. Not a waste of your time, but you wouldn't miss much if you decided to read a book instead. If this movie were a pizza topping, it would be pepperoni. Sure, it's good, but it's nothing to write home about.
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