Shark, meet Will Ferrell. Ferrell, say hello to the shark -- you've officially jumped it. Semi-Pro casts aside any pretense of telling a remotely compelling story in favor of a one-note joke stretched out well past the point of being funny. The whole premise of the film rests upon whether or not you think Ferrell, running around with an enormous Afro and heaving basketballs, is hilarious as the over-sexed, not-so-athletically-inclined and slightly clueless Jackie Moon. By the time he's wrestling a bear, even the die-hard fans may be checking their watches.
Making his feature film debut and working from a Scot Armstrong script, Kent Alterman does the best he can with the perfunctory material, but the apparent ease with which he felt the story would coast on the strength of the cast is evident from the opening moments. Unfortunately, it never gains any momentum -- but more on that in a second. Jackie Moon, who had a smash hit with the carnally-inclined single "Love Me Sexy," is the hapless owner of the Flint (Michigan) Tropics, a last-place team in the struggling American Basketball Association circa 1976.
Jackie has a flair for marketing, but as a player, he stinks and as a coach, he's embarrassing. When he learns that four teams from the ABA will be folded into the National Basketball Association, he makes it his mission to get the Tropics into the big-time, even going so far as to recruit the washed-up Monix (Woody Harrelson) in hopes of elevating the team's play.
Unless you've never watched a sports movie in your life, you can see where this is going and unfortunately, with such a well-worn path, filmmakers need something to make the journey more entertaining. In the case of Semi-Pro, the men behind and in front of the camera think it's enough to simply swear a bunch, fire off crude non-sequiturs and fall all over the place.
While there are a few bright spots -- I really enjoyed Andrew Daly's work as the nebbish-y announcer Dick Pepperfield and his chemistry with the always-reliable Will Arnett as loose cannon color man Lou Redwood; Harrelson and Maura Tierney are both far better than the flick deserves -- most of Semi-Pro is a laugh-less desert, dry and unforgiving, particularly during sequences when you feel you should be laughing at something, you're just not sure what or why. Hopefully, Ferrell pulls himself out of his creative rut and finds a project that's both amusing and interesting -- it's not too much to ask, is it?
This two-disc "Let's Get Sweaty" edition includes the 91-minute theatrical version, as well an extended (98 minute) unrated version that just piles more naughty stuff atop what's already available. From what I could tell, the only additions are an early scene of Andre Benjamin's character Clarence Black racing to the arena, a conversation between Jackie and Black's mother, a brief glimpse of a female flasher mid-way during a bus ride, a bit more of the St. Louis road game, a scene involving a stripper "pep talk" and a few other brief snippets. Additionally, a theatrical version is available separately on DVD and Blu-Ray (the unrated version's also available on Blu-Ray).
The jokes might have some issues, but this 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer doesn't -- sparkling, vibrant colors; crisp, inky blacks and fine detail make this a very solid visual representation of recently filmed material. There's the odd bit of video noise, but it's certainly nothing that detracts from the overall viewing experience.
The occasionally inventive profanity comes through loud and clear via the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track, with score and surround effects sounding solid and well-placed. There's not much to complain about here -- the film was just in theaters at the beginning of the year, for cryin' out loud -- and it's as pleasing an aural experience as it is a visual one. An optional Dolby 2.0 stereo track is on board, as optional English and Spanish subtitles.
Aside from the extended, unrated version of Semi-Pro, the first disc features no supplements. The second disc, which includes a free digital copy of the film (yes, that's right: You get three copies of this thing in one package), houses the meat of the extras. Under the heading "From the Cutting Room" are four deleted/alternate scenes and three improv sequences; both are playable separately or all together for an aggregate of 15 minutes, 14 seconds (presented in anamorphic widescreen).
Under the heading "Behind the Scenes" is the six minute, 49 second featurette "A Short History of the ABA" (presented in anamorphic widescreen); the 12 minute, 45 second featurette "Re-Creating the ABA" (presented in anamorphic widescreen); the five minute, 24 second featurette "'Love Me Sexy' - The Story Behind the One Hit Wonder" (presented in anamorphic widescreen) that reveals, incredibly, that producer Nile Rodgers was involved in the song's creation; the two minute, 39 second featurette "Bill Walton Visits the Set" (presented in anamorphic widescreen); the five minute, 38 second featurette "Four Days in Flint" (presented in anamorphic widescreen) and the 23 minute, 59 second featurette "The Man Behind Semi-Pro" (presented in anamorphic widescreen).
Under the heading "Promotions" is the one minute, 57 second music video for "Love Me Sexy" (presented in anamorphic widescreen), two sequences of "Flint Tropics Hot-Talk with Dick Pepperfield" -- the one minute, 14 second "Ball Girls" and the one minute, 24 second "Pancakes and Camels" -- which are both offered in era-appropriate fullscreen, degraded to look like poorly maintained VHS. Three trailers -- a teaser, the theatrical trailer and the film's red-band trailer (all presented in anamorphic widescreen) -- complete the set. All bonus features offer optional English and Spanish subtitles.
While there are a few bright spots -- Andrew Daly's work as the nebbish-y announcer Dick Pepperfield and his chemistry with the always-reliable Will Arnett as loose cannon color man Lou Redwood; Woody Harrelson and Maura Tierney are both far better than the flick deserves -- most of Semi-Pro is a laugh-less desert, dry and unforgiving, particularly during sequences when you feel you should be laughing at something, you're just not sure what or why. Hopefully, Will Ferrell pulls himself out of his creative rut and finds a project that's both amusing and interesting -- it's not too much to ask, is it? Don't snag the unrated version thinking it might contain more laughs -- that's not the case. Rent it.