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Semi-Pro  Print E-mail
Blu-ray Sports
Written by Darren Gross   
Thursday, 16 October 2008

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful

Overall rating (weighted)
3.9
Movie Rating:
3.0
Audio Quality:
4.5
Video Quality:
4.0
Supplements:
3.0
Purchase: Buy from Amazon.com
Was this review helpful to you? yes     no
The year is 1976 and the smaller ABA (American Basketball Association) has reached its peak, and the wild and loose style of ball playing and its clubs’ often crazy grassroots promotional efforts has created a fervent, vocal audience in the smaller cities the teams call their home.  Entrepreneur Jackie Moon, (Will Ferrell) made rich by the release of his one-hit wonder “Love Me Sexy” has used his money to buy the ABA team, the “Flint Tropics,” which despite its sun-baked Floridian colors and theme, is actually located in blustery Flint, Michigan.  Jackie’s passion for the team knows no bounds, and he wears, ridiculously, three hats on the organization, functioning as player, coach, and manager/promotional director.  When it’s announced that the ABA will be disbanding and only four of its teams will be folded into the NBA, (the larger, mainstream National Basketball Association— the current big leagues) Jackie convinces the team managers and the association’s commissioner (David Koechner) to make the rest of the season play out as an elimination, with the final four top ranked teams being those chosen for NBA assimilation.  As the Flint Tropics are far from the top team, Jackie does his best to drive them to victory, including bringing in a temperamental rival team player, Monix (Woody Harrelson), who while primarily relegated to the bench, was once on a team that went to the championships.  Midway through the season, the commission changes the rules, requiring a minimum attendance number for the winning teams’ games.  With the Tropics’ audience numbers in the toilet, this forces Jackie’s already eccentric promotional ideas (such as “Free Gerbil Night,” or having the team do complex, costumed dance routines) to escalate into jaw droppingly ill-prepared audience drawing events such as Jackie wrestling a bear or roller-jumping a series of the Tropics’ cheerleaders to disastrous effect.  With Monix elevated into a coaching position, the team’s odds increase, but it’s uncertain if it will be enough. 

Arriving after a string of similarly styled Will Ferrell sports comedies, (“Talladega Night” and “Blades of Glory”) “Semi-Pro” seems to have had no staying power in the pop culture radar, and did fairly lackluster box office.  Three extremely similar films being released in rapid succession clearly didn’t make each film seem distinct enough to interest prospective audiences.  While “Semi-Pro” stays very close to the sports comedy/underdog template of Ferrell’s other vehicles, it’s given additional targets, beyond sports, for cultural satire by placing the story in the 70s.  Surely 70s hair, clothes, and attitudes are frequently, and easily riffed, but the era also makes Jackie’s wild character traits easier to swallow.  Will Ferrell’s career and best films have tapped into his uncanny ability to do and say things that are wildly ridiculous, and crude, while remaining completely stone-faced and deliriously unaware.  His mastery of egomaniacally dead-serious and absolutely self un-aware characters is Ferrell’s particular niche and the characterization of Jackie Moon fits the bill perfectly.

The supporting cast is particularly game.  Woody Harrelson and Andre Benjamin are fine straight men for the gags around them and Andrew Daly as Dick Pepperfield flawlessly embodies stiff 70s sports commentators and he remains completely unflappable in the company of his cruder, decorum-challenged co-host, Lou Redwood (Will Arnett).  More of his performance is featured in the deleted/alternate scenes, and they only serve to increase one’s appreciation for his performance.  Jackie Earle Haley has a small but fun recurring role as a doped out, rarely conscious hippie, who endlessly pursues Jackie in order to claim his free-throw prize winnings.  Among the comedic highlights are the bear wrestling scene, a goofy attempt by Jackie to make his team intimidate their opponents by having them wear mascara and Woody Harrelson’s first team training session. 

The soundtrack features a bold, terrific, funk-inspired score by Theodore Shapiro and it’s backed up by a selection of funk classics from the period.  Jackie’s legendary hit song, “Love Me Sexy,” perfectly captures the flavor of the era’s songs and was written by Nile Rodgers with Will Ferrell, based on Scot Armstrong’s script. 

The film is presented in both an “R” rated and an unrated version, via seamless branching.  While the difference is between 92 and 99-minute versions, there’s nothing outrageous or explicit in the unrated edition.  It seems as if only a few inexplicit additional scenes have been added and it’s doubtful that there’s anything in this cut that’s harder than an “R.”

The Blu-ray presents the film in frequently stunning 1080p.  The color palette is garish and vividly colored and it accurately captures the rich multitude of hues on displays with extreme precision and crispness.  The imagery is predominantly sharp, and often displays fine detail, but there are several instances where the image seems unstable, particularly during basketball games where there are quick courtside panning shots, and there are brief instances of aliasing, such as on Ferrell’s hideous suit while he’s in the dumpster.

The DTS-HD MA track is in 7.1, and sounds terrific, even when monitored via core-only in 5.1.  It’s a rich, clean, and well-balanced replication of a bold, extremely vibrant mix that makes excellent use of the surround channels, has tremendously satisfying, and involving presence, and features intense usage of the LFE channel as well.

Given the loose and improvisatory nature of the dialogue, the improvisations and deleted/alternate scenes are definitely worth a look.  All are fully finished and are presented in 1080p and DTS-HD MA 7.1; they look and sound great.  Nearly all of the bonus materials are in 1080i/p, though the featurettes occasionally incorporate some standard definition behind-the-scenes footage or interview snippets.  “A Brief History of the ABA,” and “Recreating the ABA” are fascinating looks at the ABA era, and include vintage clips and feature comments with some original ABA players, who have cameo appearances in the film.  The featurettes are all solid, and are given a tremendous lift by their HD presentation, which increases one’s involvement with the material.  One finishes viewing them with an appreciation of this halcyon period in professional basketball.  The exclusive “Super Agility Trainer” game is (appropriately enough, given the film’s era) an Atari-level game, similar to “Pong,” but it would not play on the Samsung BD-P1000.
Studio New Line Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating Unrated
Starring Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Andre Benjamin, Maura Tierney, Andrew Daly, Will Arnett, David Koechner
Director Kent Alterman
Film Release Year 2007
Release Year 2008
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 1080i (supplements) • 480i (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Running Time 1 hr. 39 mins.
Sound Formats English DTS-HD Master 7.1
Subtitles English SDH • Spanish
Special Features Includes both R and unrated versions of the film, Deleted/alternate scenes, Improv, "Love Me Sexy" the story behind the one hit wonder, Re-creating the American Basketball Association, 4 Days in Flint, The man behind "Semi-Pro," "Love Me Sexy" music video, Flint Tropics hot talk with Dick Pepperfield, Trailers, Web-enabled features
Forum Link http://www.avrevforum.com
Reviewer Darren Gross







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