Fun With Ferrell

'Semi-Pro' is better than most comedies, but that's not saying much

Semi-Pro is a film that's slightly better than mediocre--at best. That said, I'll take a mediocre Will Ferrell movie over most Hollywood attempts at comedy any day.

Well, any day except for Thursday ... that's when I do my knitting.

Still, it's time for Ferrell to stretch out a bit, because his latest effort is about as good as his last so-so movie, Blades of Glory. Granted, Semi-Pro had me laughing steadily at times, as did Blades, but it doesn't have the beginning-to-end hilarious consistency like such Ferrell treasures as Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Old School. It gets by on Ferrell's insane charm, but without him, the film would be nothing.

The film starts to the unabashedly vulgar refrains of "Love Me Sexy," the theme song for one-hit-wonder Jackie Moon (Ferrell). Jackie is owner, promoter, coach and player for the Flint (Michigan) Tropics, fledgling team of the American Basketball Association. Trivia note: The ABA was a real-life basketball association formed in 1967, featuring teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets, that eventually merged with the NBA.

Semi-Pro comes up with a fictional ending for the ABA, in which the four best teams in the league will merge with the NBA, resulting in financial glory for those four teams. The Flint Tropics, the worst team in the league, trade their washing machine for Monix (Woody Harrelson), a pro has-been with a bad wig. After a touchy start with the team, Monix starts coaching them on playing hard until puking--and the Tropics make a serious run.

Ferrell gets some good-old-fashioned Ferrell laughs, including a hilarious Russian-roulette sequence reminiscent of The Deer Hunter featuring a cameo by Tim Meadows. Best of all would be the bear-wrestling sequence, with a cameo by Kristen Wiig: Jackie pisses off a docile bear by smacking it one too many times in the head. The bear eventually escapes, with Jackie telling his basketball audience to panic and shield themselves with small children, because bears love the tender meat.

Hell, I even laughed at a fur-coat-wearing Ferrell singing along to "Get the Funk Out of My Face" while driving his car. The guy can make even terrible movies (like Bewitched) intermittently tolerable, because his shtick is so uniquely bizarre. People who were tired of the Ferrell routine right out of the gate--and I know there are a number of you, because you accost me in public--will have no reason to watch Semi-Pro.

One of the problems with the film--in fact, the main problem--is the Harrelson character. He gets a thankless subplot in which he's trying to woo an ex-flame (Maura Tierney), and it's a complete waste of time. Harrelson's main role is to mope, which is a shame, because as he proved with Kingpin, he has good comedic chops. Those chops are not on display in this movie.

On the plus side, this is an R-rated comedy, so Ferrell gets to unleash all sorts of demented, obscene rants. There's just something so great about Ferrell saying stuff like "cocksucker." Maybe it's because his shtick is kind of childish, and hearing him say those words using an otherwise-gentle persona is just shocking.

The trailer for his next film is funnier than this movie. Step Brothers, starring Ferrell and John C. Reilly, has more laughs in its trailer than most Hollywood comedies do in their entire running time. You don't believe me? Watch the trailer ... the bunk-bed gag rules.

Wait ... I'm talking about the trailer for Ferrell's next movie in the review for his current movie. This is a sure sign that I'm ready to see something new from the man.

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