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New Line Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/3/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/3/2008
I'm not the kind of person who closely follows the careers of actors. (Except for maybe Bruce Campbell, but that's a long story.) Having said that, there are, of course, some actors which I like more than others. If one of those actors is appearing in a film that looks interesting, that makes the package more appealing. However, I wouldn't go out of my way to see a bad looking movie just because they were in it. Despite this objective view, I still get excited when an actor I look to for quality has a new movie. And it's all the more disappointing when that movie doesn't live up to the expectations. Will Ferrell's latest vehicle, Semi-Pro, is a perfect example of this.
Semi-Pro is set in 1976 and follows the life and career of one Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell). Jackie had a hit single with his song "Love Me Sexy" in 1970 and with the money, he purchased the American Basketball Association (ABA) team, the Flint Tropics (that's Flint, Michigan), and made himself not only the owner, but the coach and starting power forward as well. As the story opens, the Tropics are on hard times, as the team isn't very good and attendance is at a record low. Jackie learns that the ABA will be merging with the NBA, but only four ABA teams will be making the move and the others will be dissolved. Jackie convinces the ABA chairman (David Koechner) that the top four teams should be chosen. Thus, Jackie makes it his mission to whip the Tropics into shape. He brings washed-up player Ed Monix (Woody Harrelson) to the team, hoping that his experience will rub off on the Tropics' younger players. Monix is more than happy to make the move, as his old flame, Lynn (Maura Tierney), lives in Flint. As Ed attempts to teach the team the fundamentals of basketball, Jackie cooks up bizarre stunts in order to boost attendance. Can this underdog team win the hearts and souls of the locals and gain national acceptance.
As noted above, Semi-Pro is a disappointment and in short, isn't a
very good movie. However, at first glance it doesn't seem that bad, until one
realizes that its problems are subtle. But, these subtle problems coalesce into
a near-mess of a movie.
First of all, the subject matter and the attempts at comedy don't gel here. On the surface, Semi-Pro is a standard sports film and it contains all of cliches of the "underdog team" movie. We get the team which is down on its luck, the crazy fans, the older player who's brought in for help, and of course, the final game where it all rides on the last play. The film attempts to combine this familiar formula with odd and absurd humor, but it doesn't work. Why doesn't it work? Because the sports movie aspects of Semi-Pro are played too straight. Films like Dodgeball and Beerfest lampoon the traditional sports movie cliches, but they are placed against such bizarre backgrounds that the humor works. (Compare Semi-Pro and Dodgeball head-to-head and you'll see that they are very similar, but the unusual idea of professional dodgeball gives Dodgeball a much-needed comedic edge). Semi-Pro wants to be a zany movie, but it looks too much like a real sports movie. In fact, Semi-Pro is very reminiscent of Major League, especially the relationship between Monix and Lynn, which bears a strong resemblance to the relationship with Tom Berenger and Renee Russo in that film.
These comedic miscues aren't helped by the presence of Will Ferrell, who, in fact, hurts the film. I usually love Ferrell non-sequitirs and ad-libs, but they feel out of place here. The movie features some great comedic talent in supporting roles (more on that in a moment), but the actors who surround Ferrell don’t respond well to his odd brand of humor. Ferrell either needs another zany person to play off of (John C. Reilly in Talladega Nights) or a great straight person (James Caan in Elf). Here he’s working with actors who just stand there while Ferrell does his schtick. Even Woody Harrelson, who’s certainly shown comedic chops in the past, doesn’t seem to know what to do here.
The biggest issue with Semi-Pro is that it’s simply a waste of talent. Writer Scot Armstrong has been involved in some great comedies, such as Old School, but his script offers no character development and we learn next to nothing about the Tropics’ players. If you’ve seen an Outkast video, you know that Andre Benjamin (AKA Andre 3000) is entertaining, but he’s not given much to do here. Will Arnett and Andrew Daly have some good lines as the Tropics’ broadcast team, but there jokes are usually more scatological than humorous. Following Talladega Nights andBlades of Glory, Semi-Pro looked as if it could be another great Will Ferrell sports spoof. But, the shot-clock has run out on this sub-par film.
Semi-Pro crashes the boards on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image here is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The most striking thing about the transfer are the colors, as the pastel of the uniforms (and the seahorse dance (?!)) look great. The image has a great deal of detail and nice depth. The image is never overly dark or bright, and there was no noise or artifacting. The Blu-ray holds a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.0 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track really struts its stuff during the games. The on-court sound effects provide nice stereo separation and the noise from the crowd provides very nice surround sound action. Being a comedy, we don’t get a ton of audio effects, but the presentation is very impressive.
The Semi-Pro Blu-ray Disc has a variety of extras. Disc 1 features both the theatrical edition (91 minutes) and the "Let's Get Sweaty" unrated version (98 minutes) of the movie.
The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. "From the Cutting Room" features four DELETED/ALTERNATE SCENES and three "Improv" scenes, all of which run about 15 minutes. An alternate opening explains why a team in Flint, Michigan is called the "Tropics". The "Where are they now?" ending is interesting. The "Improv" stuff contains some lines which are much funnier than those found in the movie. "A Short History of the ABA" (7 minutes) contains comments from real ABA players describing their experiences in the league and how it differed from the NBA. This piece contains actual footage from ABA games. "Re-creating the ABA" (13 minutes) shows sports coordinator Mark Ellis auditioning players. We then see the actors and players practicing. "'Love me Sexy' - The Story Behind the One Hit Wonder" (5 minutes) features interviews with composer Nile Rodgers and behind-the-scenes footage of Ferrel recording the song. (Note Ferrell's "Free the West Memphis Three" shirt.) "Bill Walton Visits the Set" (3 minutes) shows the former NBA player shooting an odd promo with Ferrell. In "Four Days in Flint" (6 minutes) Director Kent Alterman discusses why the story is set in Flint and then describes location shooting in the Michigan city. "The Man Behind Semi-Pro" (24 minutes) is a detailed "making-of" which focuses on the origin of the script, the director, and the shooting of the film. The piece contains many comments from the cast and filmmakers. The Disc contains the MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Love Me Sexy". "Flint Tropics Hot Talk with Dick Pepperfield" contains two "episodes" of this show where Tropics announcer Pepperfield profiles the team. We get three TRAILERS, the Teaser, the Theatrical Trailer, and the Red Band Trailer. The final extra is the "Super Agility Trainer", which is a set-top version of Pong. This may be one of the greatest extras ever.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long