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Directed by Kent Alterman.
Written by Scot Armstrong.
Starring Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin and Will Arnett.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  3/19/08


I got caught in an interesting situation earlier this evening--I left a meeting in Fairfax at 4:30, and faced with the prospect of taking 60-90 minutes to drive home (from there, it's normally a 20-minute ride back to my place in Bethesda), I decided to go to the mall instead to catch a movie.  Letting fate decide what I should watch, I caught the first thing that started around 5:30...and, that would be "Semi-Pro", which I had been avoiding mainly because everyone else I know that saw it thought it sucked, and the trailer was a complete dog.

I must admit, though, that "Semi-Pro" is decidedly average.  Will Ferrell basically takes his part in the truly awful "Blades of Glory" and changes sports from skating to hoops, this time playing the role of Jackie Moon, a player/coach/owner of the Flint (Michigan) Tropics of the ABA, in 1976.  Using the royalty money he made years earlier from a famous pop song, Jackie went out and purchased the abysmal franchise, which serves as his opportunity to play power forward, promote the hell out of a bad product, and hang out with his friends whenever possible.  But, the big, bad NBA has proposed a merger, and as a result, they will only take the top four ABA teams (out of about a dozen) in the merger and the Tropics are in last place...but, with the help of a former NBA scrub (Woody Harrelson), the Tropics try to make a run at the top, and a chance to keep their franchise running with the big boys.

The script for "Semi-Pro" was written by Scot Armstrong, the co-writer of both "Old School" and "Road Trip", so clearly we have a solid funny guy on hand, but the film's direction and general feel are a bit off.  There are some great, great lines in this movie--most of which helped lend the film its R rating--but like a good winning streak, it seems like "Semi-Pro" never really gets hot for long stretches; it's funny here, strangely dumb there, and over and over again the funny stuff ebbs and flows unevenly.  Will Arnett (from "Arrested Development") gets good mileage from just acting like a cocksucker and a funny-looking mustache, but this is nothing new for him; Ferrell has so many predictable "Ferrell Moments" (vamping unnecessarily, crying to no one in particular, trying to play sexy for laughs, etc.) that he has essentially become his own version of Woody Allen or Arnold Schwarzenegger or anyone in-between that has been in a lot of films and has their own set of quirky Star-isms; Ferrell has been exploiting himself for cash at almost every turn, and since "Old School", he really hasn't been great or interesting in anything except "Stranger Than Fiction" from a couple of years ago.

Now, that being said, there are still some good moments.  The "jive turkey" scene made me laugh; the costumes are constantly engaging (and, 70s kitsch gets a lot of love in general); the soundtrack is fantastic, and the guy who stars as the play-by-play commentator, Andrew Daly, has maybe the movie's best moment, when his character is chatting with Moon about what they are going to do after an interview show with some ladies.  OutKast man André Benjamin is occasionally funny ("Who the fuck is Bambi?") and a couple of the bit players on the team get a laugh or two in as well.  But, "Semi-Pro" never really aspires to greatness and that shows in the product, a so-so comedy that will be completely forgotten in a year or two.  For $7, not bad.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09