The film takes place in the world of the ABA, an underground and grassroots basketball league that ran parallel to the NBA in the 1970’s. This time around, Ferrell’s adorable-loser character is Jackie Moon, a washed up one-hit-wonder disco singer with a passion for basketball, who buys an ABA team called The Tropics. Both the league and the team are near extinction. The ABA is about to get bought out by the NBA while the Tropics are on an incredible losing streak. After convincing the NBA to allow the four best rated ABA teams to transfer into the much-coveted league before the ABA’s demise, Moon embarks on a quest for victory, determined to defy the odds and to make his team’s dream to play in the NBA come true. Satirical montage sequences of training drills and athletic enlightenment ensue, and before you know it, it all amounts to a final act much like every final act of any Ferrell movie; a relatively happy ending where the underdog becomes a champion and the loveable loser attains self-acceptance.
Semi-Pro’s script seems to be written with the intention of making a basketball film, not a comedy. It does not include enough sarcasm, over-the-top dialogue or cynical plot twists to be a parody, nor enough gross-out elements to be a slapstick comedy. In fact, Semi-Pro is not humorous enough to be a comedy nor relevant enough to be anything else. Other than Ferrell who is consistently asked to bask in his usual over-the-top goofiness, most of the other actors give out very plain and grounded performances (bordering on boring and uninspired), thus leaving Ferrell with the impossible task to bring in the laughs by himself, in a movie that is not even that funny to begin with.
The people behind Semi-Pro seem to believe that dressing the notorious actor in the most hideous ‘70’s costumes, and filming him from all the most compromising angles as he wears them proudly, would compensate for the film’s lack of comedy. As a result, Ferrell is very funny in this film, but feels reduced to being the film’s clown instead of its lead, and doesn’t even seem to be in on the joke.
Semi-Pro will definitely please Ferrell’s hardcore fans, but cements the rule that one should never put all of one’s balls in one basket.
Review by Ralph Arida