Friday, March 28, 2008
He Said: SEMI-PRO
Semi-Pro is the creakiest, clunkiest Will Ferrell comedy in years. It reminded me of a cross between a wheezy, unfunny slapstick clown show and a leaden, cliched soap opera. If those two descriptions don't seem to mesh well based on the trailers and advertisements you've seen, don't be short-sighted, dear reader--this film is capable of peddling more bullshit than you even imagined.
Semi-Pro suffers from chronic cinematic schizophrenia. Will Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, the player/coach/owner of a fading ABA team who, as the NBA/ABA merger looms on the horizon, is desperate for his team to make the jump. Ferrell is pretty funny, just because Ferrell is always funny, even if the material sucks. But in a film with so many conflicting desires, he is just one misplaced cog in a rusty machine.
While Ferrell is playing to the back row, Woody Harrelson is doing something a little different--I think he was shipped in from another movie entirely. He plays a washed-up former NBA star who has a bad temper and who is trying to reconnect with his ex-wife (Maura Tierney). Their scenes together reminded me of melodramatic highlights of Thirtysomething (though they are clearly more like fortysomething). The only element placed in this sideplot that connects it to the rest of the low-brow movie is the placement of the Tierney character's current husband, who idolizes Harrelson to the point that he wants to watch his wife have sex with him. Ha ha.
Semi-Pro was directed by newbie Kent Alterman in what has to be one of the most inauspicious directorial debuts in recent history. Alterman formerly worked as an executive producer on films like Little Children and A History of Violence...and also films like Mr. Woodcock and Son of the Mask. Based on this directorial effort, I can make an educated guess as to which of those films Alterman was most passionate about.
Most disappointing about Semi-Pro is that I actually like to laugh at these kind of movies. Anchorman, for me, still ranks as probably the funniest purely absurb piece of slapstick cinema since The Naked Gun. Talladega Nights was pretty great, too. But hell, even Will Ferrell's recent Budweiser commercials as Jackie Moon were funnier than this movie.