DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

Semi-Pro - DVD Review


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</script></div>{/googleAds}Actor-comedian Will Ferrell has perfected a commercial concoction of successful artifice steeped in the Freudian subconscious of man-child arrested development that makes the truth of his flagrant box office success far stranger than fiction. Like a mad scientist working furiously into the night, the quack-y general practitioner, Ferrell, has found a divertive elixir for tickling audiences' funny bones.

Kicking and Screaming (2005), Talladega Nights (2006), Blades of Glory (2007), and his latest exhibition, Semi-Pro, represent a taxonomic species within a devolving sub-genre in which the former SNL'er is the undisputed king of his domain: sports comedies celebrating the most contrary adaptation to survival — mediocrity.

Semi-ProFerrell and his zany contemporaries Mike Myers, Ben Stiller, John C. Reilly to name a few think there's something innately funny about 1970s American pop culture. Perhaps it was once fertile ground for hamming it up overtop the Me decade's over-the-top colorful fashions and soulful music, á la TV's That '70s Show. In the now dispirited spirit of that decade's classic rock anthems (â"Freebird" and â"Stairway to Heaven" come to mind), what was once harmless cultural fodder is spinning vexatious grooves through Ferrell's own personalized format jocks engaging in repetitious jocular playback.

It's 1976 and basketball team owner/coach/player Jackie Moon (Farrell) is in desperate straits. His minor league ABA (American Basketball Association) Flint (Michigan) Tropics are about to dissolve. Loosely based on the actual ABA league, the insolvent association is merging its top four most popular teams into the NBA. The rest of the teams will fold. The Tropics are on the verge of bouncing into oblivion.

Ever the anything-to-put-butts-in-the-seats promoter/salesman, Moon, in an attempt to increase fan attendance and improve the Tropics' chances for being included in the merger, devises increasingly outrageous promotions that put true fabled ‘70s pro sports promotions like â"Ten Cent Beer Night" and â"Disco Demolition Night" to shame. Team members coordinating fistfights with opponents, players wearing eye shadow, bogus free corndog giveaways, and bear wrestling are enough for Moon's flamboyant publicity stunts to rival those of the most recognizable real-life bizarro sports promoter Chicago White Sox baseball owner Bill Veeck. When Moon's desperate moves prove to be all for naught, team members are left to play only for each other and their pathetic pride (rousing speeches aspiring to fourth place).

Prolonging the streak of uplifting sporting ne'er-do-wells begun in the ‘70s with the The Longest Yard (1974) and The Bad News Bears (1976), and extended into the ‘80s and ‘90s with Major League (1989) and Major League II (1994), Semi-Pro is about a group of dysfunctional losers who, unlike their predecessors, are all too unlovable. By far the most profane comedy that Ferrell has ever carried, considering the fondness the â"tweener" aged audience has for his lowbrow brand of humor, it may be disarming for unsuspecting parents (Ferrell's previous sports-themed flicks were PG and PG-13, as was 2003's Elf) how abruptly obscene the R rated language is. (â"No, he didn't call you a jive turkey. He only called you a co***ucker.") The anguished sex jokes echo the Tropics' own air of desperation.

Most noticeably, with the action shifted from the ice rink to the basketball court, Semi-Pro is either a wistful homage to, or an egregious rip-off of, Slap Shot (1977), starring Paul Newman, about a minor league hockey team that is likewise comprised of outlaw misfits playing on a semi-professional team in danger of disbanding. That movie, with its cult following of sorts, had its Three Stooges-inspired moments (you haven't forgotten the Hanson Brothers, have you?) and one of the screen's greatest movie stars advancing the action. Thirty years from now, there's no shot anyone will be looking back on Semi-Pro with the same fondness we do with Bears and Slap Shot. You can bank it.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
3 Stars
4
DVD Experience
3.5 stars

DVD

DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 2.35:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Commentary
o Feature-length commentary track with co-directors Ash Brannon and Chris Buck and producer Chris Jenkins
* Featurettes
o Behind the Scenes
+ A Short History of the ABA (06:49)
+ Re-Creating the ABA (12:45)
+ Love Me Sexy - The Story Behind the One Hit Wonder (05:24)
+ Bill Walton Visits the Set (02:39)
+ Four Days in Flint (05:38)
+ The Man Behind Semi-Pro (23:59)
* Deleted Scenes - 4 deleted and alternate scenes and 3 improv sequences playable separately or as an aggregate of 15:14
* Promotions:
o Love Me Sexy (01:57)
o Flint Tropics Hot Talk with Dick Pepperfield
o Ball Girls (01:14)
o Pancakes and Camels (01:24)
* Trailers - teaser, theatrical and red-band trailer for Semi-Pro

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging

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