Posts Tagged ‘john c. reilly’

This week’s releases are from two ends of the spectrum: soon-to-be Fortune 500 soldiers fight to clear their names; a couple of cops try to prove they really are good at their jobs; and a son tries to ensure he’s the only man in his mother’s life. (more…)

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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.

Walk Hard is one of this year’s funniest films – a great end to a year that had several comedic disappointments.

If you liked the over-the-top characters Ron Burgundy and Ricky Bobby, who were created for “real-life” exposés in Anchorman and Talladega Nights respectively, you will love the newest addition: Dewey Cox. Or, if you are a Will Ferrell-hater, this is the perfect opportunity for you to enjoy a Judd Apatow flick and see what the hype is about.

There is no doubt Apatow is one of Hollywood’s most sought-after comedy commodities at the moment. Having already been involved in several of the comedic hits of the last three years, including Superbad, Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin and the above mentioned films, he currently has four pictures slated for release through Columbia Pictures.When writing the script, Apatow and co-writer/director Jack Kasdan thought of all the life events that seem to be consistent in various rock star documentaries. Thus, Cox is the embodiment of all the rock star lifestyle clichés to the nth degree of hilarity and ridiculousness.

Dewford Randolph Cox (John C. Reilly) grew up in the shadow of a talented older brother. However, when he suffers “a particularly bad case of being cut in half,” Dewey is left to become famous enough for both of them, despite having become “smell-blind.” Through three marriages, numerous stays in rehab and constantly being told “you’re never gonna make it” and “the wrong kid died,” Dewey Cox spans seven decades of music and eventually receives a lifetime achievement award.

Reilly performs all his own music and took part in the song writing process prior to shooting. He previously displayed his musical chops in Chicago and A Prairie Home Companion. The songs are genuinely catchy while being lyrically absurd; as popular music changes each decade, so does Cox’s musical style (as well as his drugs of choice). Beginning at 14 with the teen pop song “Take My Hand,” he is later discovered covering “(Mama) You Got to Love Your Negro Man” in an all-black jazz club, which leads to his topping the charts with “Walk Hard.” His anthology also includes a love song dedicated to his wife, Dylan-esque protest songs, an attempt to create a visionary new sound, and the lilting swan song “Beautiful Ride.” 

As in previous Apatow films, Walk Hard is sprinkled with celebrity cameos. Comedy stars Jack Black, Paul Rudd, Justin Long and Jason Schwartzman play the Beatles, while Jack White of The White Stripes provides his impersonation of Elvis Presley; even Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder has a part.Nonetheless, it is the talented supporting cast that brings the colourful story to life. Saturday Night Live alumni Tim Meadows is the band’s drummer and Dewey’s drug connection. Fellow SNL alum Kristen Wiig plays Dewey’s young bride, to whom he must explain “It’s unrealistic for you to think I’m gonna be here every time you have a baby,” and Jenna Fischer of The Office portrays Dewey’s true love and backup singer, Darlene. Comedy veteran Harold Ramis also lends his talents as the Jewish record executive L’Chai’m. 

In the end, some important lessons can be learned from the life of Dewey Cox: if you play with machetes, someone is going to get hurt; use birth control; and friends should not be treated as free drug dispensers.

Walk Hard is uproariously funny with an equally entertaining soundtrack. I expected nothing less.