Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Basketball movies have suffered greatly in the past, and I do not know why. Football movies, for the most part, are almost uniformly entertaining across the board. Even suspect football movies like ‘The Replacements’ or ‘Unnecessary Roughness’ were at least watchable. I maintain that the only outright bad football movie ever made was Adam Sandler’s remake of ‘The Longest Yard’ and probably those ‘Air Bud’ movies. basketball movies though, it’s just a different story. You can click here if you want to see a comprehensive list of practically every basketball movie ever made, but the good basketball movie is the exception and not the norm. Sure ‘Glory Road’ was decent, but the similar ‘Remember the Titans’ was better. ‘Coach Carter’ was okay but again, the similar ‘Grid Iron Gang’ was better. This brings us to Funny Man Will Ferrel’s latest vehicle ‘Semi-Pro’, a 1970’s American Basketball Association comedy which on paper, much like a super talented sports team, looks like a can’t miss deal. As they say, this is why they play the games.

It’s 1976 and it’s the waning days of the much maligned league with the red white and blue ball, the ABA. Jackie Moon (Ferrel) is the funky waspro sporting owner, coach and power forward of the mythical Flint Tropics who play to a crowd of about fifty close friends every night. Jackie does his best to promote and pump up his team but the writing is obviously on the wall and players are hearing noises about the league finally folding up its tents. The hope is, for any team stuck in the ABA back in the day, is for NBA to smile upon its poor brothers and fold the remaining teams into its league. After a meeting with the league commissioner (David Koerschner) concerning just that, the commish informs Jackie that NBA is taking the four most profitable teams, which would preclude the Tropics by a longshot. Jackie throws a hissy and demands that they take the four BEST teams, a deal the other owners agree too, problem with that plan is that the tropics are the leagues worst team. By a longshot.

To help assist in the Tropics long road to back to respectability, Jackie trades for former NBA washout Ed Monix (Woody Harrelson) who immediately butts heads with the Tropics star player Clarence ‘Coffee’ Black (Andre Benjamin). Clarence is all flash and dash where Monix just wants the team play some fundamental basketball. Now in between all this juxtaposition there is all kinds of funny stuff going on as you would expect in any movie that stars Will Ferrel, and has Will Arnette, Tim Meadows and a bunch of other funny folks along for the ride, but at it’s heart this is a sports movie.

I love basketball. It helps of course that I’m a bit of mad baller myself, as my skills have often been described as Jordan-esque, minus the height, jumping ability, dribbling ability, passing skills and shooting ability, but aside from that our games are damn near identical. Of course that diatribe has nothing to do with this movie, I just like to spout off about my crazy skillz. About ‘Semi-Pro’ however, the best way to describe it is simply to say it’s alright. I mean there’s humor in it, and it does have its funny moments but it’s not nearly as funny as I was hoping it would be, especially considering how funny I thought ‘Blades of Glory was, and I would have surely thought that 1970’s basketball was much more fertile comic ground than competitive figure skating. For a basketball movie there wasn’t a heck of a lot basketball being played as a lot of the narrative surrounded the throw-away plot point of Woody Harrelson’s character and his relationship with his ex-girlfriend played by Maura Tierney. These scenes did bring some more funny bits thanks to the comic gifts of Rob Corddry, but for the most part it was completely disposable. Will Ferrel does that thing he does and he can be counted on to deliver the laughs on occasion when called upon, and I should mention that every single female playing the Flint Tropics cheerleaders was insanely hot.

Like we said earlier, this is a sports movie to its heart and it doesn’t deviate from that even a little bit. The rag tag team of basketball misfits comes together, play towards a common goal, end up facing a seemingly unbeatable foe, this time in the San Antonio Spurs, though I was curious where was George ‘the Iceman’ Gervin, Billy ‘the Whopper’ Paultz and sharp shooting James Silas. I’m also thinking that there may be last second shot or something as the clock ticks down to triple zero, it’s not a guarantee, but it’s possible. Okay, it’s a guarantee.

I had really high hopes for ‘Semi-Pro’, and to prove this I’ll have you know I’m wearing one of my many St. Louis Spirits ABA throwbacks while I type this, but ultimately ‘Semi-Pro’ was a bit of a disappointment. This was mainly because as a movie telling a story it was quite simply a rehash of something we’ve seen umpteen times before, with the hope that the comedy will put it over the top, but unfortunately it wasn’t funny enough to make it past the finish line. It had its moments mind you, but there just weren’t enough of them. And yet again, down goes basketball in flames.

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