Will Ferrell raises his game with this typically energetic and supremely daft ‘frat pack’ comedy that also boasts a surprising winning streak in its semi-serious celebration of the now defunct American Basketball Association. With Semi-Pro, the man-bear comedian adds to his repertoire of goofy schmucks Jackie Moon, the owner, coach, power forward, one-hit singing sensation (on soul number ‘Love Me Sexy’) and all-round driving force behind fictional mid-1970s Flint, Michigan ABA team, the Tropics.
Not so hot on either game-play tactics or management strategy, Moon concentrates his efforts on player morale-boosting and audience-enticing showmanship, opening games with groovy song and dance routines, flashy but phoney competitions (corn dogs for all!) and a string of dangerous publicity stunts such as fighting a big brown bear in a cage. Despite Moon’s misguided efforts, however, his team remains rock bottom of the league, and so when the corporate-backed National Basketball Association buys out the ABA, retaining only the top four teams, the Tropics are threatened with closure. In a last-ditch attempt to save his beloved team, Moon beefs up the squad with one-time NBA star Monix (Woody Harrelson) and the Tropics take one last shot at fourth place in the league.
There’s plenty of lewd body parts humour and violent cartoon-style slapstick that’s familiar from other frat pack comedies such as Dodgeball. And Semi-Pro makes good use of its funky 70s setting, deploying Afros, porno tashes, medallions, flairs, platforms, pimp rides and discos in quick succession. First time director Kent Alterman and writer Scot Armstrong (Old School, Road Trip) also take inspiration from 70s cinema with the bold use of foul language (‘you muthaf*cking c*cksucka!’) and copious consumption of booze and cigarettes. Perhaps most pleasingly for cinema buffs, Semi-Pro references in its game sequences a number of 70s sports movies, most notably the great Paul Newman ice hockey movie, Slapshot.
General release from Fri 29 Feb.