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Let’s Get Tropical!

Will Ferrell truly became a household name after his hysterical performance in the 70s infused comedy, Anchorman. Goodness knows there’s plenty of comedic gold to be mined from this bizarre period in America’s history. Disco, bell bottoms, and white men with afros just scratch the surface. Thus, it was inevitable that Ferrell would revisit the 70s given the success of Anchorman and his staggering ability to pull off a killer afro. Ferrell’s gifts are on full display once again in Semi-Pro, a story of a struggling 70s ABA (semi-pro) basketball team on the verge of collapse.

Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, the athletically incompetent player/coach/owner of the absurdly named Flint (of Michigan) Tropics. This sad sack semi-pro franchise pulls in about 20 glue sniffers and hippie burnouts on a good night. Despite his best efforts, Moon’s beloved Flint Tropics are playing on borrowed time as the commissioner of the ABA plans to merge 4 ABA franchises with the NBA and shut down the rest of the league. Moon manages to work a deal that the team with the best 4 records in the ABA will score a place in the NBA.

Unfortunately, the Tropics are a far cry from landing one of the coveted four spots. Fortunately, Moon manages to land an over the hill NBA benchwarmer in the form of Ed Monix (Woody Harrelson). Monix may be an over the hill NBA benchwarmer, but he’s been to the big show and knows how to play team ball, something that Moon’s crew of rejects and misfits knows nothing about.

The other wrinkle is that the Flint Tropics must average 2000 in attendance for the balance of the season. Fortunately, Moon’s a master promoter and takes things to a whole new level in an effort to keep the Tropics alive and kicking. Ferrell has more than his fair share of laughs with his promotional ‘bear fight’, his Evil Knievel jump over a multitude of bikini clad bimbettes, and the always popular ‘free corn dog’ night. The beauty of Ferrell is truly his unpredictability. You really never know what he’s going to say or do and his comedic instincts are 99% of the time spot on.

Ferrell isn’t the only who deserves credit for the abundance of laughs in Semi-Pro. Will Arnett does a stellar job as one of the Tropic’s jaded, semi-alcoholic commentators Lou Redwood. Woody Harrelson is also great as the aging Monix, who is haunted by his benchwarmer status and is just looking for a chance to play and win. The remainder of the cast playing the Flint Tropics brings their "A" game from start to finish.

It’s hard to assess how much credit one can give director Kent Alterman for Semi-Pro given the stellar cast of actors/comedians he had to work with and the quality of the script he was working with. Let’s just say Alterman didn’t screw things up. He took the leash off Ferrell and let him (and the rest of the cast) loose. Some of the best moments of the film clearly were not scripted and were gems Ferrell and the cast came up with on the fly.

Semi-Pro is a comedic breath of fresh air after wading through the "sturm und drang" of Oscar season films jockeying for position. Additionally, Semi-Pro sets the bar high for any comedy slated for release in 2008. If comedy is your thing, Semi-Pro should have you least until the next Judd Apatow film hits the theaters.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars