Semi-Pro (Alliance, 2008) D: Kent Alterman, w/ Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson. Rating: NN; DVD package: NNN
What a mess. Some of the film is a standard Will Ferrell comedy. This time he works his infantile boor shtick as owner/coach/player of a failing pro basketball team in 1976. Other scenes are a decent second-time-around romance with Woody Harrelson as the fading NBA player traded to Ferrell’s team who’s trying to win back an old girlfriend. Later on, it’s the inspirational underdog team movie.
None of the pieces mesh until you look at the disc-two history of the American Basketball Association, which affirms that the ABA really did merge with the NBA and really was a low-rent operation fuelled by wacky promotions. It’s lively, likeable and mostly told by ABA vets. The other extras are okay, too, particularly the deleted scenes and improvs.
With those in mind, the movie makes more sense: it’s a love letter to the league. But because the parts fail to gel, it’s still not a good movie. Ferrell is one of the most unrealistic players around. Here, his calculated moves sometimes work, sometimes don’t. Ditto the professional funsters around him; Andrew Daly and Will Arnett as mismatched sportscasters are the best of them.
Harrelson and, as his ex-girlfriend, Maura Tierney (Abby Lockhart from ER), blow Ferrell and crew right off the screen. They’re both remarkably grounded, believable actors, and their characters are obviously made for each other. Whenever they’re on screen, singly or together, it’s a whole other movie – specifically Bull Durham.
The package features the theatrical and extended “sweaty” version. The latter is seven minutes longer and contains one boob shot lasting less than a minute. Whoopee.
EXTRAS Disc one: Theatrical and extended versions. Widescreen. English, French audio and subtitles. Disc two: ABA history, five-part making-of doc, deleted and improv scenes, music video. Widescreen. English audio. English, Spanish subtitles.