Air ball


This has not been a good week to be at New Line Cinema.
After getting enslaved by the Time-Warner media monolith last week, the company could not even trumpet its swansong. “Semi-Pro,” the Will Ferrell sports comedy, was the last film to be released while still remaining a “free agent,” tanked at the box office, squeezing out $3 million less than “Meet the Spartans” just a few weeks ago.
Let that sink in.
Will Ferrell, who has a string of successes and is a worldwide box office “star,” made less in a comedy than a film that’s biggest asset was a Britney Spears clone shaving her head and breakdancing gladiators.
Prognosticators are scratching their heads as to how this could happen, offering theories of a tired formula (Will Ferrell + a sport + wacky non-sequiturs = funny), an unstable movie-going weekend (though “Ghost Rider” did better in its second week last year at the same time and “Madea’s Family Reunion” earned $25 million at the same time in
2006), or the fact that the normally PG-13 Ferrell excluded some fans by having an
R-rating slapped on this one.
After watching the film, I have another theory to throw into the mix: it sucked.
See, I’m convinced I put more effort into that little two-word synopsis than the producers of “Semi-Pro” put into the entire film.
Cluttered, lazy, wildly unfunny and lit like an underground 70s porno, “Semi-Pro” will most likely not be a nail in Ferrell’s film coffin, but it certainly demonstrates that, without the proper material in place, he’s dangerously close to arm-wrestling Jon Lovitz for special appearances on sitcoms.
And this is coming from a Feral Ferrell fan.
Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, a one-hit disco wonder who scooped up his earnings and is now sole owner, promoter and player of the Flint, Michigan Tropics, a struggling ABA team circa 1976.
When the NBA comes knocking and says it will merge the top four teams of the league, Moon and his team rally to make the cut. There’s no sense getting into too much plot description, for “Semi-Pro” is not about the drama. The trouble is, it’s not about anything else, either.
It’s almost disconcerting how jokes build in the picture than just linger in the air like some fetid gastric expulsion that just clears the room for the next scene. Ferrell’s former co-stars, David Koechner (“Anchorman”), Will Arnett (“Blades of
Glory), Tim Meadows (“The Ladies’ Man”), Rob Corddry (“Blades”), Kristen Wiig (“Saturday Night Live”) – a who’s who of comedians— are all trotted out for cameos that range from boring (Koechner) to brief (Wiig) to disturbingly bizarre
Director Kent Alterman makes his debut with sledgehammer subtlety. And while I am sure the city of Flint has some wonderful areas and lovely residents, he somehow manages to cake the entire film in a gauze of filth, even staging two pivotal scenes in or near trash bins for no reason whatsoever.
For all the idiots he prefers to play, Ferrell is a smart comedian. He has amassed a nice little mini-comedic entourage (including directors Adam McKay, Judd Apatow, actors John C. Reilly, and Will Arnett). He has helped launch a much-watched video website ( and has even carved out critical acclaim in few semi-serious roles
(“Stranger than Fiction,” Winter Passing”).
But his level of quality has been steadily sliding since “Anchorman” and Jim Carrey can’t wait to start getting first dibs on the “goofy white guy” scripts Ferrell has been coveting for the past decade.
On the bright side for Ferrell, I hear there are some openings at New Line Cinema.

~ by usesoapfilm on March 11, 2008.

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