Movie Review: Semi-Pro - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Movie Review: Semi-Pro

In 1967, the American Basketball Association, an independent circuit of teams that  were an alternative to the NBA, was founded. There have been several defunct basketball leagues, like the Negro League, but the ABA probably lasted the longest.

The ABA did eventually merge with the NBA in 1976. At that time, four ABA teams were transferred into the NBA. The rest were disbanded or had already folded. This comedy deals with a fictional team in that predicament.

Will Farrell stars as Jackie Moon, the owner and head coach of the ABA team the Tropics, located in Flint, Mich. The last time I watched Flint in a movie, it was Michael Moore's Roger & Me, and even though that 1989 documentary dealt with a very serious subject, I laughed more then than I did with this boring movie.

Despite being a long, gangly, white guy, Jackie Moon is pretty funky and certainly knows how to groove. Moon was able to buy his basketball team with the money he earned from a R&B song he produced called "Love Me Sexy," the lyrics to which is too raunchy to repeat here.

Moon is rude and loud, and what some might call a jive turkey. In modern-day lingo, he's a fraud. He's a bit selfish, but he does have an earnest way about him. Sadly, that earnestness is lost most times to his mad anxiety to save money, even though he boasts and promises to have so much of it. Truth is his basketball ship is sinking.

Jackie Moon is more a showman than a coach. He doesn't know much about strategizing on the court, or coming up with plays. It's doubtful that Moon even knows much about the game, beyond shooting and dribbling, and since the referee keeps citing him for traveling; it's highly unlikely he even knows how to do that.

His team, the Tropics, because of which, have become the worst in the league. The commissioner threatens to dissolve it, if Moon can't win the championship and carry at least two thousand people in his home games.

Moon comes up with all kinds of gimmicks, from makeup, theme park-style costumes, and even Eval Knieval-inspired stunts. Pathetically, these things are not enough to save his team, or for that matter save this movie.

The ABA was known for its more open and flashier rules. The ABA, for example, had a 30 second shot clock, instead of the NBA's 24-second clock. The ABA first introduced the 3-point field goal. The ABA used a red, white, and blue ball, instead of the traditional orange.

The ABA even pioneered the slam dunk contest, but the filmmakers here pervert the history, and make it seem like the ABA was responsible for inventing the Alley Oop, for which you could possibly make an argument, but what could have been a pretty hilarious satire, or even Saturday Night Live-worthy spoof of the defeated league, devolves into a sports film cliché, where Farrell gets to curse like crazy, but rarely makes you laugh.

Farrell plays the same egotistical, hormonally-driven, macho, low-intelligent, brash, cartoon character he's played several times before, enough times now for a person to be sick. Jackie Moon is basically Ron Burgundy in short-shorts, a basketball jersey, an Afro-sweat band, and knee-high socks.

That might have been forgivable, if so many jokes here weren't so painfully obvious, obvious and drawn-out for no apparent reason but to frustrate and annoy the audience. In particular, there are a gunplay joke and a vomit gag, the punch lines of which can be seen coming a thousand miles away. And by the time they do arrive, people in the audience are yawning and checking their watches.

There is a running gag of Oscar-nominated actor Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children and Bad News Bears), as Dukes, a dirty hippie who keeps trying to get money from Farrell's character that just grows stale, and becomes a true waste of Haley's talents.

Besides the opening sequence, the only true funny moment occurs about an hour into the movie when Jackie Moon tries to sabotage his own team, all because he can't deliver on a promotion that says if his team scores 125 points, the crowd gets free corndogs. Moon's antics on the court are the kind of ripe things you would hope in a comedy like this.

But no! Farrell is mostly spinning his wheels here. So is Woody Harrelson who co-stars as Ed Monix, a former NBA champ. Jackie Moon trades his team's washing machine for Monix. Why does Monix agree? His reason is probably one of the most contrived and ultimately just reads false on the screen. You'd be better off watching Harrelson in White Men Can't Jump (1992). Watching him here is just a slug. He tries, but it's just not enough.

Rapper and singer Andre Benjamin plays Coffee Black, a Julius Irving-wannabe. A lot of his role feels contrived as well. We're not provided nowhere near enough back-story to care about his character, beyond the stereotypical black mother, screaming, "That's my baby," in the final game.

One Star out of Five.
Rated R for foul language.
Running Time: 1hr. and 30 mins.
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