Harry dines on the tickled prime rib that is SEMI-PRO!!!
Comedy is a strange thing – it makes one man weep and another man scream. We all have favorite comedians and ones we hate. I prefer Chaplin to Keaton, I prefer Laurel & Hardy to Abbott & Costello … What makes you laugh… makes you laugh. And Will Ferrell makes me laugh. He’s 6’ 2” of adorable dorky gigglstuff… and as Jackie Moon – owner, promoter and power forward of the FLINT TROPICS – the ABA team on the cusp of the NBA or non-existence… he punches my comedy buttons.
I’m not entirely sure of why though. It might be the look in his eye when he says the word Cocksucker. Or the sweet vitrol filled anger of threatening to kill a man’s entire family. Albeit a Father/Ref. It could just be his ‘fro. White man ‘afros are just funny. And Will Farrell on the basketball court playing the game as efficiently as a bout of “hot potato” – well it cracks me up.
The first laugh is before the opening credits, as the studio logos very first begin to appear… a hushed sexy voice of Will Ferrell singing the seductive crotch stirring bars of LOVE ME SEXY – a faux-seventies song to get em wet and on their backs. And I really hope it is remembered this time next year for the Naked Gold Bald Guys show thing.
The format of the film is essentially known to anyone ever watching a sports movie. There are longshot underdogs, facing losing everything they had worked for… there’s impossible odds – but we also know that in these movies… our underdogs rarely lose. Right? Except maybe ROCKY.
We also know the sports comedy film. Movies like SLAP SHOTS, HEAVEN CAN WAIT, NORTH DALLAS FORTY. You know there’s a certain amount of lunacy at play. This film isn’t amongst the best of this genre. It also isn’t anywhere near the middle or bottom of the genre. This is a goofy flick. It’s also a little crazy. Woody Harrelson’s Monix doesn’t even feel comedic – in fact he feels like a basketball playing character from a Down and Out Basketball flick about used-to-be’s fighting to make something of themselves… but he’s the straight man for a lot of the comedy. And it works.
I’ve seen SEMI-PRO twice now – once at a press screening – and again at the special AICN screening we did. And I enjoyed it at both – quite a bit. The main thing that kicks ass about it is the supporting cast. Andy Richter doesn’t do much… but damn he’s good at not doing much.
There’s Andrew Daly & Will Arnett as Dick Pepperfield and Lou Redwood – the commentators for the Flint Tropics. What makes them rule so much is Dick is one of those slightly uptight married guys that wants to hang with the cool kids, but is constantly defined by his wife – and the insecurity that comes with everyone making crude and verbal gestures about their possible involvement with her. And Lou Redwood… well he’s a former player that still wants the booze and the women and the blowjobs that goes with being a player. Hell, he just wants to punch someone.
David Koechner plays the commissioner of the ABA – and he plays it fairly straight – which was disconcerting. Then there’s Rob Corddry – he is a huge fan of Woody Harrelson’s MONIX – who happens to be the boyfriend of Monix’ ex… Maura Tierney (very sweet performance here) – Rob has… amongst the funniest most unexpected moments I’ve seen in a very long time here.
Andre Benjamin – he plays the one player worth a shit on the team – that’s a show off and cartoon. His character is more closely aligned with Woody’s Monix… meaning he ain’t laughing it up much here.
However – the greatest character in the whole film is played by Jackie Earle Haley. Yeah, he knows something about Sports Comedies. But here, he ain’t on the team – he a burnt out stoner fan of the Flint Tropics… never missed a game and he has a special moment that becomes a continuing gag – and man. I could have seen an entire separate film about his character’s path of trying to accomplish what Jackie Moon sends him out to accomplish. It would pretty much be the greatest movie ever – and the character amounts to who Sean Penn’s Spicoli might have been given the 26 years that have passed. Jackie is just brilliant in this film.
Also working for the film is an incredible soundtrack of 70s tunes, amazing production design and frankly – the city of FLINT, MICHIGAN. You know – through ROGER & ME – I’ve developed a fondness for this sad, once prosperous, town. In fact, my entire opinion of the town has been developed by Michael Moore – and there’s an odd part of me that just loves that the community had this film shot there, thus helping that town out a bit, I hope.
Producer Kent Alterman has done a damn fine job of crossing over from the suit side to directing a film. He’s produced great films like ELF, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE and LITTLE CHILDREN…. And he’s produced shit like MR WOODCOCK, SON OF THE MASK and AFTER THE SUNSET… Here – he stretches and shines – and kinda makes ya wish he’d directed those last three… because he’s much more talented than the hacks responsible for those three.
This is one of the best Will Ferrell feature comedies… closer to ANCHORMAN and TALLADEGA NIGHTS than BLADES OF GLORY. If you love Will’s work, this movie is Prime Rib. However… if, for some reason – you’re not fond of Will… you’d be a vegetarian trying to eat Prime Rib. You’ll just end up vomiting. But the rest of us… we’ll be dining on Prime Rib. I enjoyed the hell out of it. Mmmm… Prime Rib…. That’s got protein. I’m supposed to be taking in lots of protein. MMMmmm… gotta go… that Prime Rib would be really good.