It is not uncommon for Hollywood film studios to live by the philosophy of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Companies know that they can take a working formula and put out uninspired, lacklustre follow-ups with minimal changes and get away with it, still raking in the profits. While it doesn't fall under the category of a sequel, New Line Cinema's newest release, Semi-Pro, does follow the recent "generic, sports-related comedy starring Will Ferrell" blueprint, with undesirable results.
Following up on the financial successes of Kicking and Screaming, Talladega Nights and Blades Of Glory, Ferrell's newest cinematic foray into the world of sports takes him back to 1976 and the time of the American Basketball Association. Here he plays Jackie Moon, an afro-donning, one-hit-wonder pop star whose hit single "Love Me Sexy" propelled him to fame and fortune. Moon, financially stabilized because of the song, used his wealth to purchase the (fictional) Flint Tropics basketball team, hiring himself as a player and head coach. Despite being the worst club in the league, with games that resemble a circus more than basketball, Moon uses the Tropics to maintain his status in the city and entertain people after his failed music career. Calamity hits when the failing ABA decides to merge with the NBA and only take the top four teams, leaving Moon with the task of finding a way for his team to both win games and draw the support of more fans before the season ends.
Like any movie about team sports, the squad's situation begins to change for the better when a ringer enters the fold. Cue Ed Monix, played by Woody Harrelson, an aging former NBA champion who gets traded to the Tropics in exchange for a washing machine. Monix's experience comes in handy as he teaches the team how to actually play basketball while rekindling his passion for both the sport and a love he'd once lost.
While the story is genuinely intriguing and the era--complete with afros, platform shoes, Cadillacs and disco music--is sure to generate laughs, the writing of the film is its biggest downfall. Ferrell's zany acting ability is perfectly suited for his role and Harrelson is an acclaimed actor, but both performances fall flat due to being written into scenes with drab dialogue and half-hearted hilarity. The film's biggest attempts at humour, such as Moon wrestling a bear or jumping over cheerleaders on roller skates as promotions, are swings and misses, leaving the movie with nothing but unfunny slapstick, which comes too sparingly as is.
Even though Semi-Pro as a film is the equivalent of hitting nothing but rim, it's destined to be a huge box office smash, thanks to it's surefire winning formula and its tandem ads with Anheuser-Busch that aired during the SuperBowl. Whether it's lacrosse, squash, log-rolling or something even more obscure, the fact remains that Semi-Pro's eventual success will surely spawn at least another generic, sports-related comedy starring Will Ferrell: sad news for moviegoers searching for something new.
Semi-Pro is in theatres Fri., Feb. 29. The ABA ruled.