**1/2 out of ****
Will Ferrell's latest comedic outing, "Semi-Pro," never becomes a slam-dunk, or a three-pointer for that matter. It does score a few points, but mainly just hits the backboard.
In the vein of Ferrell's other hilarious sports satires "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," "Kicking and Screaming" and "Blades of Glory," "Semi-Pro" drops the ball, taking it one too many with a stale been-there-done-that taste.
Funnyman Ferrell still generates enough sporadic laughs to make "Semi-Pro" a worthwhile venture for fans of the star and this genre.
Ferrell once again plays a superficial, self-absorbed and highly confident character, this time under the alias of Jackie Moon. Set in the mid-1970s, Jackie is a one hit wonder with his Barry Manilow-esque "Love Me Sexy" and uses the money from the song to acquire an American Basketball Association (ABA) team -- the Flint, Mich., Tropics.
Acting not only as the owner, but as a coach, player and promoter, Jackie learns that the ABA is to merge with the National Basketball Association (NBA) at the end of the season. The catch is that only the top four teams will be part of the merger.
At the bottom of the rankings, the sad-sack team gets a much-needed boost when Jackie recruits a former NBA has-been, Monix (Woody Harrelson). It isn't long after Monix clashes with the only promising player on the team, ball-hog, Clarence "Coffee" Black (Outkast's Andre "3000" Benjamin). As the team starts shaping up and the attendance increases, the Tropics look as if they are on their way to be a part of the NBA.
We all know that Will Ferrell can be funny, even in his sleep, with his comedic ability, but he doesn't bring anything new to the table in a film relying heavily on sight gags rather than dialogue. You can't help but laugh at the song "Love Me Sexy" and the promotions to bring in the fans.
To be noted, this film is rated R, unlike Ferrell's other sports films. Ferrell and crew never bother to go the extra mile in what could have resulted in a PG-13 rating, by editing a few words.
Woody Harrelson, who reached film stardom in his 1992 basketball comedy "White Men Can't Jump," shines in most of his scenes. Harrelson carries a majority of the funny lines that work, but a subplot with his ex, Lynn ("ER's" Maura Tierney), just slows down the poorly paced film thanks to first-time director Kent Alterman.
As random as "Semi-Pro" is, there are a number of subplots and scenes that should have wound up on the cutting room floor. A prime example is the scene of a drugged-out hippie fan who receives an un-cashable $10,000 check after scoring a free-throw, played by Jackie Earle Haley of sports comedy "Bad News Bears" fame.
"Saturday Night Live's" Kristen Wiig makes a brief appearance, as well as Patti LaBelle, Rob Corddry and Andy Richter. Andrew Daly ("MadTV") and Will Arnett are dependable for laughs as the wise-cracking sports commentators.
When the fourth quarter rolls around, "Semi-Pro" stays strong, but that isn't enough to win the game. While the film is worth a watch if you like Will Ferrell's previous work, but ultimately "Semi-Pro" is just a semi-decent flick.