WE’LL AVOID THE OBVIOUS JOKE HERE: Will Ferrell in a scene from Semi-Pro. (Photo: Alliance Films)Will Ferrell is back and this time he is trying to conquer the world of 1970s professional sports with another over-the-top character.

Unfortunately, Semi-Pro is not as clever as most of Ferrell’s past endeavours.

Between 1967 and 1976, the renegade American Basketball Association tried to make its space next to the National Basketball Association. It was the birthplace of future NBA star Dr. J a.k.a. Julius Irving and the three-point shot. The league was less traditional, but it was also less popular than its counterpart. In 1976, the league was dissolved and only four teams were absorbed into the NBA (the Nets, Nuggets, Pacers and Spurs) while the others faded into the abyss. The Flint, Michigan Tropics were none of these teams.

Jackie Moon (Ferrell) is the owner, coach, power forward and promoter for the fictional Tropics team. In last place, their attendance barely reaches 100 despite Moon’s outlandish, and often impractical, promotions. When word comes down regarding the league’s disbandment, the Tropics decide it’s really time to “get tropical.” To lessen their reliance on the genuinely talented star player Clarence ‘Coffee Black’ Withers (Andre Benjamin), Moon trades an appliance for washed-up former-NBA player and championship ring holder Ed Monix (Woody Harrelson). The team of misfits’ only goal is to gain fourth place and a possible NBA berth.

As if not to be outdone by John C. Reilly who recently displayed his vocal talents in Walk Hard, the film opens with Ferrell’s raspy, whisper over a disco soundtrack. The song is Moon’s #1 hit single, “Love Me Sexy.” Of course, the lyrics are ridiculous and the invitation from Ferrell just as unappealing.

What makes this film less amusing than previous projects is instead of witty dialogue and well thought out skits, the filmmaker relies heavily on adolescent humour; many of the gags do not go beyond gas and vomit jokes. An extended close-up of Ferrell’s crotch as he squats in tight shorts is not really funny after 10 seconds. These tactics would seem unnecessary in a film already about underdog basketball players in an anything-goes league.

Case in point, one of the scenes that really work is an absurd fight that breaks out on the court during a timeout. At least the Tropics were good at something. Team announcer Lou Redwood (Will Arnett) says it best: “Nothing like a good old fashioned brawl during a commercial break.”

It would have been great to see Semi-Pro stay on track with the really sharp humour that carried Ferrell’s other films but regrettably this one will not be ranked with the rest.

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