New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Music Video, Trailers
"Semi-Pro" is the latest Will Ferrell sports comedy directed by first timer Kent Alterman. Very loosely based on actual occurrences when the ABA merged with the NBA in 1976, the film is much more concerned with lampooning the era's cheesiness and capitalizing on Will Ferrell's undeniable appeal to male viewers, much like the two far better comedies "Talladega Nights" and "Blades Of Glory", although fans of Will Ferrell's antics will certainly find this film irresistible.
I am someone who finds his comedic foolishness quite amusing, even when he seems to be simply doing endless variations on his classic "Elf" routine. I just can't help but laugh every time I look at his goofy face, not to mention his strange talent for awkward physical comedy; it never ceases to surprise me the depths to which he will plunge to make a complete fool of himself.
Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell) is a disco balladeer whose one hit wonder status starts and ends with a single called 'Love Me Sexy' which helped fund his purchasing of a Flint, Michigan basketball team called the Tropics. A team who isn't very good at what they do, to say the least, especially with Jackie Moon as their star player.
Jackie is far more into the promotional side of the team than actually winning games or competing, in order to sell tickets we watch him go through some hilariously over the top promotions that include free corn dogs, free gerbils a ten thousand dollar prize and other completely ridiculous stunts. Jackie's coaching skills are as goofy as you may expect, when the team is down he has a sign that says 'Everybody Love Everybody' and takes an impossible free love approach that seems to work.
Of course it's the seventies and the filmmakers use every sight gag available to grind the fact home. Some sight gags are more effective than others. It is especially appealing to see some of the old vague commercials they have picked, (such as 'Red Apple Shasta'), and the costume design is a character in itself, with plenty of plaid and some very long collars and plenty of sideburns and long hair to go around.
Although few take the opportunity to actually watch these goofballs play basketball, after the ABA and the NBA announce they are to combine, Moon realizes it may be time to cut down on the promotions and concentrate on actually creating a winning team. For this he will need some help since his coaching skills don't seem to rise above insanely ridiculous motivational speeches. To help he enlists the skills of Monix (Woody Harrelson) an ex NBA star who comes to Flint to help with the team and hopes to repair a relationship with his ex Lynn (Maura Tierney of "ER"). We also have André Benjamin as a player who only needs a little encouragement to unlock his full potential, along with a solid cast of comedic talent including Andy Richter, Kristin Wiig and Tim Meadows. The film takes a predictable underdog approach towards the second half and becomes semi-inspirational. Whether or not this mixture works well as a screwball comedy is up for debate.
Although the film is uneven and works in some areas and not in others, I must say I didn't hate this film as much as many others seem to have. I went in expecting pretty much what I got, a lighthearted Will Ferrell vehicle that certainly isn't for everyone. But if you are a fan of Ferrell's you will certainly find it hard to resist. For those who are tired of his comedies, or find him obnoxious or annoying, you will want to stay away from this one, because he is as annoying as ever.
The picture quality is superb, featuring a very consistent black level, not to mention this is a very colorful film with a wide variety of seventies attire that comes across very nicely. Even the 'noisier' plaids are well rendered, although we do encounter some minor edge enhancement in a couple of scenes. This film looks as good as you would expect a new release on Blu-ray to look, and you certainly will come away impressed. The level of detail is always outstanding. The picture is framed at 2.35:1 in 1080p.
The audio is presented in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and it sounds every bit as clear as you could hope for, especially when the funky seventies music kicks in, which is often. The bass response is very effective, and the surrounds certainly kick in during the frequent basketball scenes. The sound design is more than adequate for this type of film.
The special features include the fact that this is the 2-disc "Unrated Let's Get Sweaty Edition", but be warned you will have to choose the unrated version or you will see the theatrical version, so make sure to choose it if it's the version you want.
New Line has brought together quite a few features for this two-disc release, although no commentary is present. Some of the features are in high def and some aren't. All of the features are conveniently on the second disc containing three separate options, 'From The Cutting Room', 'Behind The Scenes' and 'Promotions'.
From the first option we have 'Deleted/Alternate Scenes' along with an 'Improv' section. The deleted scenes consist of some interesting and amusing scenes, including an alternate ending. They are presented in high definition, which is a plus. Altogether these features run about fifteen minutes. The 'Behind the Scenes' option consists of six separate featurettes that cover the entire production and also enlighten us as to the real history behind the story.
The six featurettes are 'A Short History Of The ABA' which runs six minutes and fifty seconds, it features interviews with the writer and shows a lot of real stock footage from the seventies and also interviews many key people from that era in basketball history. 'Re-Creating The ABA' is about thirteen minutes and consists of informing us with how they went about structuring the historical and athletic aspects of the film. 'Love Me Sexy' features the director and others discussing the history and making of the cheesy seventies hit featuring Will Ferrell on vocals, it runs about five and a half minutes. 'Bill Walton Visits the Set' is just a few minutes and features the legendary basketball great and how they prepared him for his cameo.
'4 Days In Flint' follows the cast and crew as they film in and around Flint, Michigan, of all places. It runs 5 minutes and forty eight seconds. 'The Man Behind Semi-Pro' is actually the longest of the featurettes, running almost twenty four minutes, it follows the making of the film to it's very basic origins and is actually quite well done. All of these features appear in 720p on my screen.
'Promotions' consists of a 'Music Video' for 'Love Me Sexy' and is in high def. It is as funny as you may expect featuring Ferrell at his best. 'Flint Tropics Hot Talk with David Pepperfield' which is just a couple of fake interviews. There is a video game called 'Super Agility Trainer' which is an old school type game based around 'Pong', pretty original. We also have 'Trailers' which contains the teaser and a couple of others for the film in high definition, a nice final touch to a fairly well rounded group of features. It says it offers web enabled features, but since this is a pre release I couldn't find any.
So if you like comedies such as these, perhaps you may want to give "Semi-Pro" a chance, although it is far from Will Ferrell's best, it does offer up a few mindless laughs and is a somewhat effective seventies parody, although you may not want to go in expecting to much. New Line delivers an exceptional Blu-ray, featuring a very sharp picture and decent sound, along with a nice amount of supplemental features that should certainly keep any fan of this comedy busy for a few hours.