I finally watched the movie Semi-Pro today. Being an avid fan of Will Ferrell, I had every intention of seeing this movie in theaters; the problem was, I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. I was actually considering doing the unthinkable, going to a mid-week matinee by myself while the rest of you slouches are at work, until I read this Bill Simmons column. The moral of the story: you should ignore any of Bill Simmons’ non-sports opinions, which accounts for about 75% of his columns.
This movie was hilarious, and I’d like to highlight a few moments for you. I’m not going to worry about spoiling anything for the following reasons: (a) this movie came out months ago so if you wanted to see it you should have seen it already, and (b) it’s a Will Ferrell movie, a funny guy walking around in tight shorts, you know what you’re going to get without me saying anything.
For the most part, the film follows the framework of the classic sports comedies that have preceded it, namely, Major League. (Yes, I’m admitting this movie isn’t groundbreaking original work, big surprise.) But there are a couple original twists that make Semi-Pro worth watching.
First, there’s the veteran-smart character who is on the brink of being washed up and is primarily interested in reviving a failed relationship from his past: Semi-Pro has Woody Harrelson, while Major League has the catcher Jake Taylor chasing Rene Russo’s character. The difference between the two is that while Rene Russo has a new fiancee who is the complete opposite of Jake Taylor and looks down his nose at him, Woody’s love interest has a white trash boyfriend who’s favorite player is none other than Woody Harrelson. This makes for an incredibly awkward final kiss scene in which all three parties are happy in the end. Seriously, Ferrell and company can make me laugh while feeling strange about the fact that I’m laughing, it’s an incredible talent.
The final game, however, is a stroke of genius . . . no, wait, that’s being a bit over the top – it was a very clever way to end the movie. The Flint Michigan Tropics are playing the final season game for fourth place, with nothing else on the line. They are down at halftime, and Ferrell’s character has just awoken from being unconscious. While out cold, he saw his dead mother (played by Patti LaBelle, more genius), and she taught him a brand new basketball move that will help them win the game: it’s called the alley-oop. It appears that this move is indefensible, as the Tropics rip off about twenty in a row, as the announcers try to describe this brand new way of putting the ball in the basket. Picture Jake Taylor in Major League inventing the hit and run right in the middle of the last regular season game, or if Rudy had been the first to execute the fake punt. It’s clever AND funny, what a rare combination.
With two seconds left and the Tropics down by two, the opponent finally finds a way of defending the alley-oop, but Ferrell gets fouled. This is the first (and only) free throw attempt in the entire film. After bragging about what a good free throw shooter he is, Ferrell lines up, and shoots granny style. Amazing.