February 28, 2008


White Men Can't Jump 2

Grade: C +
Director: Kent Alterman
Starring: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin, Maura Tierney, Will Arnett, Andy Richter, David Koechner, and Rob Corddry
MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

At his current pace, it is only a matter of years before Will Ferrell, and Hollywood in general, mines the entire wide world of sports for satirical ore—can parodies of Jai alai and Australian Rules Football be far behind? Unfortunately, the only semi-original aspect about Semi-Pro, Ferrell’s onerous ode to the latter days of the American Basketball Association (ABA), is the conspicuous fact that it is the first R-rated Ferrell-starring vehicle since Old School, a change undoubtedly fueled more by Apatow emulation than creative inspiration.

Like Blades of Glory and Talladega Nights before it, Semi-Pro's premise is far funnier than its presentation. Set in the swingin’ mid-1970s, Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, a faded one-hit-pop wonder who parlays royalties from his lone chart-topper, “Love Me Sexy,” into purchasing the fictional Flint Michigan Tropics. Jackie whiles away his days as owner-coach-player-PA announcer for the fledging franchise. When the league announces plans to merge four teams into the NBA and disband the rest, Jackie faces the double-whammy of having to win plus attract fans in order to save his team.

There is lots of red meat here for the Ferrell fan base, even if he continues to spend most scenes rambling on in search of a punch line. Ferrell wisely shares the limelight with his supporting cast, including Andre Benjamin as star guard Clarence ‘Coffee’ Black and Woody Harrelson as a washed-up ex-NBAer looking for one last chance at redemption. On the other hand, there is a lot of B-list talent relegated to C-list roles – take a bathroom break and you are liable to miss anything substantive from Tim Meadows, David Koechner, and Andy Richter (still in search of any good role).

Beyond the setup, however, the jokes are as musty as a gym locker. Writer Scot Armstrong, whose last two screenplay credits are The Heartbreak Kid and School for Scoundrels, runs out of ideas less than halfway through, leaving a void that Ferrell constantly fills with his trademark paunchy, punch-drunk lout persona. Bits involving wrestling a bear and skate-jumping bikini-clad cheerleaders stick out like sore thumbs – and are just about as funny – while subplots like Harrelson’s dalliance with the married Maura Tierney should have accompanied by crickets chirping. A few guffaws float to the top, most of them generated by Will Arnett and Andrew Daly as the Tropics’ tightly wound TV announcing team.

The rest of Semi-Pro reflects the gist of its title. Ferrell and Co. go for a slam dunk but instead end up shooting an air ball. But, don’t worry – I hear curling is pretty darn funny.

Neil Morris

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