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The Mass Media

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An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
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February 26, 2024

Semi-Entertaining

Will Ferrell likes to keep his friends close, and that fact has never been more evident than in his newest film, “Semi-Pro.” Fortunately for Ferrell, and for audiences, he’s got some pretty funny friends.

The cast and creative team behind “Semi-Pro” will be familiar to anyone who has followed Ferrell’s rise to comedic superstardom. The cast is filled with familiar faces, while the script was written by Scot Armstrong, one of the writers behind “Old School.” The film also marks the directorial debut of Kent Alterman, who had previously served as an executive producer for Ferrell’s “Elf.”

The year is 1976, and Jackie Moon (Ferrell) is the owner of an ailing ABA franchise known as the Flint Tropics. Moon, a former recording artist who bought the team with the money he earned from his one hit song, “Love Me Sexy,” is also the team’s coach, and one of its starting players.

Moon’s abilities as a player, coach and owner are all called into serious question early on, as his last-place Tropics struggle to compete in a league that is on the verge of collapse. But as soon as a four-team merger with the NBA is announced, Moon becomes dedicated to grabbing one of those spots by finishing in fourth place.

The Tropics, like Moon, are a joke, until a trade is pulled off to bring a fading, former Celtics benchwarmer named Monix (Woody Harrelson) to Flint in exchange for an old washing machine. With the arrival of Monix the Tropics are given new life. He galvanizes the team and takes over the role of coaching from Moon (whose idea of practice involves wearing clunky seahorse costumes and dancing). The inevitable winning streak ensues and the Tropics become legitimate.

Ferrell’s hilarious portrayal of the colorful Moon fits perfectly with the rebellious, carefree image that the ABA marketed. The supporting cast, including commentators Lou Redwood and Dick Pepperfield, played by Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Blades of Glory) and Andrew Daly (MADtv) respectively, is where the real comedy comes from. Many of the best lines of the film come from the improvisations of Daly and Arnett, who seem to genuinely be enjoying bantering with each other.

Ferrell takes less of the spotlight than he has in previous movies such as “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights,” to great success. This allows his co-stars to take on larger roles in the story, and makes the chunks of typical Ferrell ridiculousness easier to digest.

In “Semi-Pro,” it is co-star Woody Harrelson who gets the requisite love story, and undergoes the biggest change, all while racking up a good portion of the screen time. Co-star Andre Benjamen also gets a good share of attention and has his own character arch.

The movie follows the dual storylines of the Tropics’ quest to reach fourth place, and Monix’s attempts to reunite with his former girlfriend, Lynn, played by ER star Maura Tierney. Lynn, however, is with a new man, played by Weymouth native Rob Corddry (The Daily Show), who also happens to have an unhealthy attachment to Monix despite Monix’s unyielding attempts to steal Lynn away from him.

Moon, meanwhile, makes desperate bids to boost attendance by putting on crazy promotions, such as jumping a line of cheerleaders while on roller skates, and a cage match against a young bear.

In many ways “Semi-Pro” feels like watching an unselfish basketball team. Ferrell is the star, but his patented, over-the-top, humor never get overwhelming thanks to the team that he has around him. A well balanced game plan, meanwhile, distributes the spotlight among the stars. In fact, the most memorable scene of the movie features Arnett, Daly, Ferrell and Tim Meadows each playing an equal part in creating laughs.

Final Grade: B