Music, Arts & Culture » Movies

Guilty Pleasures: Semi-Pro

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When? 2008

What's it rated? R

Where's it available? Streaming on Amazon

GO TROPICS! Semi-Pro is one of Will Ferrell's lesser-known flicks. He stars as Jackie Moon, a '70s pop star who decides to buy an amateur basketball franchise—the Flint Tropics—with hopes to enter the NBA. Panned by critics, Semi-Pro does have flashes of comedy gold. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NEW LINE CINEMA
  • Photo Courtesy Of New Line Cinema
  • GO TROPICS! Semi-Pro is one of Will Ferrell's lesser-known flicks. He stars as Jackie Moon, a '70s pop star who decides to buy an amateur basketball franchise—the Flint Tropics—with hopes to enter the NBA. Panned by critics, Semi-Pro does have flashes of comedy gold.

Not to toot my own horn, but I believe I coined the premise of Semi-Pro before this '70s throwback spoof was made. Kicking around movie ideas with my friends in the early 2000s, I cackled at the image of one delusional idiot starring on an amateur basketball team. I think I picked Jack Black as my actor—but Will Ferrell ain't too far off!

OK, maybe my idea wasn't that groundbreaking. But it might explain why I enjoy Jackie Moon (Ferrell) and the Flint Tropics so much in Semi-Pro. Set in drugs, sex, and funk-laden 1976, Moon is a flash-in-the-pan pop star riding high after the release of his hit song, "Love Me Sexy." In a surprise career change, he uses his fortune to buy a semi-pro American Basketball League (ABA) franchise in Flint, Michigan, with dreams of eventual NBA fame. The Tropics are terrible at basketball, and Moon—owner, coach, and player on the team—appears only interested in promoting himself and stroking his ego.

True to the real history of the ABA and NBA, the two leagues announce a deal to merge. The last-place Tropics, though, face dissolution because only the top four teams in the ABA are allowed into the big leagues. Desperate, Moon trades the team washing machine to the Kentucky Colonels for washed-up former NBA guard, Ed Monix (Woody Harrelson). Between Monix and the Tropic's high-flying Clarence "Coffee" Black (Andre Benjamin), the team fires off a winning streak and threatens to finish in fourth place—irking the league's big-wig administrators who look down on Flint's dismal economic prospects.

Semi-Pro is pure silliness from start to finish, feeding off this ragtag collection of short-shorts-wearing, afro-donning, womanizing, ridiculous characters. But there are true moments of comedy gold if your sense of humor permits: a poker game where tensions run high after Clarence calls someone a "jive turkey"; controversy with the local Catholic priest who referees the games; and just the hilarious game action, like when Clarence flushes down the league's first alley-oop and nobody knows how to react. (99 min.) Δ

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