Seeing Will Ferrell do the same thing over and over again is starting to get old. While it worked to great effect in “Old School” and “Anchorman,” it began to stumble with “Talladega Nights” before plummeting in last year’s “Blades of Glory.” On his new sports comedy “Semi-Pro,” Ferrell continues a downward trajectory.
In keeping with the actor’s propensity for the self-obsessed and ignorant, Jackie Moon (Ferrell) is the pompous owner, coach and star player of the Flint Tropics. Constantly reminding everyone of his one hit wonder “Love Me Sexy,” his fleeting ticket to fame, the part is firmly rooted in his previous personas. While it might be a different sport this time around, it remains Ferrell’s same old shtick.
It isn’t long before Moon learns the ABA is going to be merging into the NBA at season’s end, and the Tropics won’t be making the jump. He convinces league officials to allow the top four teams to advance, giving his last place team a slim shot at survival. After bringing in grizzled veteran Monix (Woody Harrelson), the Tropics begin inching towards the coveted fourth place finish.
Following the bland “Blades Of Glory,” Ferrell needs a winner to reassert his comedic talent. While it can be said “Semi-Pro” offers a laugh here and there, they are too sporadic to amount to much of anything. Most of its attempts at humor fall flat, and almost all the best moments are shown in the trailers.
Nevertheless, with a slew of familiar faces and cameos – many who have already appeared in Ferrell’s earlier work – the film at least maintains some level of amusement. In spite of this, the acting is still far from par. Will Arnett and Andrew Daly, the Tropics’ sportscasters, have ripe and interesting characters but fail to generate laugh out loud hysterics. The same can be said of Jackie Earle Haley’s thankfully brief turn as a dimwitted bum, which is a complete 180-degree departure from his Oscar nominated role in “Little Children.”
The story itself isn’t anything to write home about either. The characters resemble cardboard cutouts seen countless times before, and the audience is never given any reason to care about them or the team’s impending doom. When the movie aims to establish an emotional resonance toward the end, it simply feels forced and out of place.
When all is said and done, “Semi-Pro” is another miss in Ferrell’s turbulent career, which has produced just as many duds as it has hits. It’s a shame that when he does try something new and fresh, like “Stranger Than Fiction,” hardly anybody watches. In the wake of yet another disappointing outing, Ferrell clearly needs to rediscover his “A” game.