Equal parts mockudrama and Saturday Night Live ‘skits’-ophrenia with lewd tendencies, Semi-Pro pays pretend tribute of sorts to the defunct American Basketball Association during its 1967-76 heyday, before being nearly swallowed whole and corporatized into the NBA. Debut director Kent Alterman, a former small screen scribe for Michael Moore’s TV Nation, flexes his spectator sport skills for Semi-Pro, with mixed results.
While a knowledge of basketball or the ABA is not a must to get this movie, a strong stomach for gross-out locker room humor is decidedly helpful.
Will Ferrell is Jackie Moon in the testosterone-steeped Semi-Pro, the fancy ‘fro-sporting owner, coach and over-the-hill beer-gut player on the low rent Flint, Michigan Tropics of the ABA, a team in the process of spiraling into incompetent oblivion. When an entourage of NBA corporate suits and their lawyers show up to terminate the team, Moon frantically gets into a different kind of game plan to save the Tropics by training and wish-fulfillment winning of some upcoming competitions.
Among his last chance hopefuls are the rude and unpredictable Monix (Woody Harrelson) and flashy Clarence ‘Downtown’ Withers (Andre Benjamin).
The the point of Semi-Pro seems to be an affectionate if incessantly foul-mouthed off-court defense of the regional, mostly flabby abs homeboy team concept counting all sort of eccentric, nutty and deeply lovable players before sports went commercial and big time with a prioritizing of commercial interests. But these oddly high-minded sentiments tend to get buried under piles of lame gutter humor and really bad etiquette.
Examples of some big moments, relatively speaking, of these macho antics include a jumping contest in roller skates over eight barely clad ‘ball girls’ lined up prone, without any major casualties; a Deer Hunter parody period game of accidental Russian Roulette; an ‘especially dirty hippie trying to sink an impossible shot’ while hopped up on goofballs and grass; and boxing a bear named Dewey.
Oh, and ‘rubbing the office’ for good measure, which essentially means scratching one’s head in a perplexed state of mind on the court. And which may inspire a similar cerebral response among spectators in the movie audience.
New Line Cinema
2 1/2 stars
DVD Features: Deleted Scenes; Alternate Scenes; Featurettes: Re-Creating the ABA Production Design; Four Days in Flint Location Shooting; The Man Behind Semi-Pro EPK; Behind The Scenes Look At The Production of Love Me Sexy: The Story Behind the One Hit Wonder; A Short History of the ABA; Bill Walton Set Visit; Theatrical And Unrated Cut; Digital Copy Of The Film; Love Me Sexy Music Video; Theatrical Teasers and Trailers.