Not even semi-good

‘Semi-Pro’ stinks up the­aters

The Covington News - - Newton @ Play - Ja­son Mur­dock

Af­ter watch­ingWill Fer­rell (“Old School”) bring his Funny or Die Com­edy Tour to a packed Smith Cen­ter in North Carolina last week, I, along­side Tar Heels men’s bas­ket­ball coach Roy­Williams and na­tional player of the year can­di­date Tyler Hans­brough, was con­vinced that “SemiPro” would be more than just a semi-hit.

Oh, how I was wrong. And this is com­ing from an avid Fer­rell fan.

Though he was fan­tas­tic dur­ing his standup per­for­mance, Fer­rell’s latest film fails even to draw iron. Bet­ter yet, this is one of those come­dies where most of the jokes are in the trailer.

Hands down, this was the most dis­ap­point­ing flick I have seen in a long, long time. But I’m not ex­actly sure what is worse— watch­ing Fer­rell strug­gle on­screen to be funny or hav­ing ac­tu­ally to sit through the en­tire movie in my al­ready cramped seat.

“Semi-Pro” is set in 1976, with Jackie Moon (Fer­rell) serv­ing as the owner/player/coach of the Flint (Michi­gan) Trop­ics, a los­ing fran­chise in the Amer­i­can Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, the Trop­ics are so bad that they’re on the verge of no longer ex­ist­ing.

Af­ter an­nounc­ing that the ABA is plan­ning to merge with the more es­tab­lished Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, Moon con­vinces the ABA com­mis­sioner (David Koech­ner, “The Come­backs”) that the top four teams should be al­lowed to join the NBA. (Of course, this de­ci­sion is made af­ter some child­ish ar­gu­ing be­tween Moon and the com­mis­sioner.)

How­ever, it is the sub­plot which ul­ti­mately breaks “Semi-Pro,” leav­ing the au­di­ence to won­der whether this film was ac­tu­ally sup­posed to be more sin­cere than funny.

In an at­tempt not only to win but to fill the seats, Moon trades the team’s wash­ing ma­chine for ag­ing su­per­star Ed Monix (Woody Har­rel­son, “White Men Can’t Jump”). Be­gin­ning as a dis­cor­dant force, Monix ends up uni­fy­ing the team while at­tempt­ing to rekin­dle a re­la­tion­ship with his old flame, Lynn (Maura Tier­ney, “ER”). But there is no chem­istry on screen be­tween the two what­so­ever.

Ap­par­ently “Semi-Pro” wants to be that sports un­der­dog story in­tended to make one feel good; how­ever, au­di­ences have seen it done way too many times. There­fore, in the end you’re left not re­ally car­ing about any­one.

Though­most of the story is fic­tion­al­ized, the film does a de­cent job of por­tray­ing the pop cul­ture ver­sion of the out­ra­geous ’70s. How­ever, one gets the im­pres­sion that Fer­rell and first-time di­rec­tor Kent Al­ter­man prob­a­bly re­lied on that a bit too much.

Al­though the wild and crazy ABA did not last, it sep­a­rated it­self from the NBA with in­no­va­tions such as the three-point shot and slam dunk con­test. And as a nod to those at­tributes, I did en­joy the in­cor­po­ra­tion of the al­ley oop in the movie, which the Trop­ics used ef­fec­tively.

De­spite the lack of vi­sion, the mu­sic is an­other lone bright spot, in­clud­ing Moon’s hit sin­gle “Love Me Sexy,” which al­lowed him to pur­chase the Trop­ics to be­gin with. In ad­di­tion, the com­bi­na­tion of zany sports an­nounc­ers Lou Red­wood (Will Ar­nett, “Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment”) and Dick Pep­per­field (Andrew Daly) pro­vide the film with some much-needed laughs.

But the punch lines are few and far be­tween, and when “SemiPro” tries to be funny (ran­dom bear at­tacks), it does the com­plete op­po­site. Amaz­ingly enough there are not enough scenes in­volv­ing Fer­rell, par­tic­u­larly on the court. In fact, bas­ket­ball is al­most viewed as an af­ter­thought in this movie, pro­vid­ing few court scenes and not enough trash talk.

Even for a sports fan with a keen sense of hu­mor, and af­ter sit­ting through­out the en­tire movie, cred­its and all, still was there not enough pos­i­tives to make this dud semi-good.

Grade: D+

Photo pro­vided by Ja­son Mur­dock

Brush with star­dom: Will Fer­rell hits noth­ing but air in his latest film, “Semi-Pro.” Pic­tured at the Dean Smith Cen­ter in Chapel Hill, N.C. dur­ing Fer­rell’s Funny or Die Com­edy Tour, left to right, Ja­son Mur­dock, brother Ben, Tar Heels men’s bas­ket­ball head coach Roy Wil­liams and Ben’s girl­friend, Delia Dar­ney.

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