Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Semi Pro

Will Ferrell has had a checkered career. I do not know if I just don't "get" his humor or what...maybe it is too sophisticated for me. (Insert eye-roll here). At times he gets into the slapstick which has seldom really amused me. I did not find the 3 Stooges remotely entertaining, for example. Jim Carrey at his best...the face-pulling, over-the-top antics, etc. just makes me want to hurl. And there are elements of that at times in Ferrell's work. Aside from that, perhaps it was just the subject material.

I was not nearly as amused by Old School (2003) for example as most of my friends were...but I can chalk that up to them having lived on campus whereas my university experience was primarily working 40 hours, then going to night classes, then home so I never experienced the bong-driven college party life. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) had its moments but is nothing I feel compelled to inflict on myself again, the eye candy of Christina Applegate aside. In fact, after Anchorman I was on the verge of putting Ferrell on my "save your money, do not see his stuff" list. But then came Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) and my perceptions changed.

It would be easy to credit it to the source material...except I don't really get neck-car racing. I tend to be in the "mock them for turning left" crowd. I do not get...or care about...nuances such as drafting, setting up cars, tire selection, fuel me it is watching cars turn left. I just don't enjoy watching any sort of races.

No, the charm of Talladega Nights was in the story and the characters. It was a funny, funny movie with great, quotable lines. Even today I have the Shake and Bake confrontation and the his going off on "I hope you have sons...handsome, beautiful sons" while in the hospital as ring tones on my phone. He was back on the hot list.

He followed that up with Blades of Glory (2006) which, again, is something where the source material...well, let's just say I have spent more time watching NASCAR than I have watching ice dancing. Blades was pretty funny, though certainly not in the same class as Talladega. The ending veered back into his hyperbole arena for sheer outlandishness and stupidity but the rest of the movie was good enough that I liked it well enough.

So when I saw the previews for Semi Pro (2008) I ignored the lackluster, non-funny trailers and decided to give it a shot. After all, I am a huge basketball fan and loved the old ABA so the source material was good and he seemed to be in a funny arc of sports movies. This one came with a strong supporting cast of players.

Unfortunately it came without strong writers. Ferrell veered back into the realm of "it's funny because I am Will Ferrell" and away from "it is funny so I will play the part". The laughs are few and far between. The quotable lines are all but non-existent with probably the best one coming in an exchange between broadcasters Lou Redwood (Will Arnett) and Dick Pepperfield (Andrew Daly). Redwood constantly does color commentary with a scotch in one hand and cigarette in the other. At one point on their daily television show Pepperfield gets tired of the cigarette smoke:

Pepperfield: "Lou, would you mind putting out that cigarette, it's very unprofessional."
Redwood: "No. I like to smoke when I drink."

Most of the laughs in the movie come not from the dialogue or the acting but rather from the hideous sartorial selections. There are a few exceptions but they are mostly from the supporting cast. Redwood and Pepperfield are by far the funniest characters.

In the end there is a happy ending for about everybody with appropriate amounts of cheese and some nice cameos but overall it was a huge step backwards for Ferrell. Fans of his older movies will probably love this one, those who thought they were pedestrian will not like this one, either. For example, the Goose loved it. I felt like, had I not gotten the Tuesday free popcorn deal it would have been two wasted hours of my life...

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