||[Feb. 25th, 2008|03:34 pm]
It took years to make this naturalistic
Will Farrell must like his sports movies. Signing up on films such as Talladega Nights, Kicking and Screaming, and Blades of Glory, Farrell now laces up his shoes for Semi-Pro, a story about the 1970s American Basketball Association and the Flint-Michigan Tropics. The tropics, a subservient team with little talent, little reasoning, and little fan-base, are run by the bombastic, incredulous, and flashy owner/manager/player Jackie Moon (Will Farrell). The plot is rather linear; the Tropics, who are doing terrible, are told that one team will make it to the NBA once the ABA closes at the end of the season. Moon, being the flamboyant man-child he is, assumes his dodgy team of misfits will have a chance of being that certain team. The plot of this movie dares not to be smart, but that’s okay. Will Farrell uses this script to showcase those unsightly short-shorts of early basketball, to revel in his own animated elasticity, and to howl while agonizing in pain (Moon is not the best player, by any means). |
The best players on the Tropics are, however, Coffee Black (Andre Benjamin), and Monnix (Woody Harrelson). Both who, conveniently enough, hate each other - only so they movie can reconcile their differences later, of course. In fact, all of the drama in the movie draws from older rags-to-riches sports films, including Major League, Necessary Roughness, etc. The comedy in this movie, I might add, seems fresh and coherent, however. The basketball scenes are filmed in slow motion, with trumpeting horns, and the sound of high-top shoes chirping on the hardwood floors, it’s pretty over the top. With that said, It’s all pretty darn cool, too.
Farrell is funny with this material, as he should be. Most of everything works well, including that of a Tim Meadows cameo (this caused quite a few chuckles). The only thing to dislike about this movie is the love story between a disgruntled, but basically nice guy (Harrelson), and his despondent, but well meaning ex-flame ( ). The relationship poses some interesting questions. One of the questions that arose in my mind was simply, why is this clunky, over-stuffed romance subplot destroying any comedic synchronicity this film has going for it? The other simply was, why isn’t Harrelson being used as a humorous supporting character? Wouldn’t it be, in a different realm, irrefutably more entertaining to see him mock his post-White Men Can’t Jump Days? To see his blatant wig crown around his shoulders, and throw some suggestive jokes around? It worked in King Pin, anyway, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t work here, too. But no, assuming the audience would want to see the doldrums of a throwaway romantic subplot, we’re subjected to the stuttering, boyish pandering of Harrelson’s character, who acts far more dramatic than anyone wants to see when watching a Will Farrell comedy. Nonetheless, most of the supporting cast works appropriately, considering the material, anyway, and we’re given some good laughs because of it. The best characters that come out of the motley crew of dysfunctional cameos is that of Will Arnett and Andrew Daly, who play Lou Redwood and Dick Pepperfield, the vulgar duo of commentators who helm the Tropics’ home games.
All in all, it’s no surprise that the Flint-Michigan Tropics make it to the finals. This is, after all, the formula of a sports comedy. Players overcome obstacles, make good with each other, and practice in montages. Sure, Semi-Pro is predictable, but so what? Predictability is the exact reason Will Farrell’s fans attend his movies. And it’s not exactly a bad thing, either. Farrell generally delivers his brand of humor while yelping obscenities, manipulating the octaves of his voice, generating excitement, and then, finally, mellowing out with a deadpan randomness. They know what’s coming at them, and, to be quite exact, they enjoy every moment. A worthy viewing.