Today! Because there’s a bear loose in the coliseum! There will be no refunds! Your refund will be escaping this deathtrap with your life!
Directed by Kent Alterman
Starring Will Ferrell (x3), Woody Harrelson (x5), Andre Benjamin, Maura Tierney (x2), Will Arnett, Andrew Daly, David Koechner, Rob Corddry (x3), Andy Richter, Matt Walsh (x5), DeRay Davis, Josh Braaten, Jay Phillips, Peter Cornell, Jackie Earle Haley (x3), Tim Meadows (x2), Patti LaBelle, Ian Roberts (x2), Ed Helms (x3), Jerry Minor, Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig (x3)
The most underrated sports comedy in recent memory, Semi-Pro is basically a beat-for-beat basketball-based remake of #213 Slap Shot. I’ll admit that. Instead of the team on the verge of folding because of hometown financial distress, here it’s that the very real ABA is being acquired by the NBA, bringing the top four of its teams into the big league. Trying to fight their way into this select group is Jackie Moon’s Flint Tropics (the only fictional franchise in the movie), which needs to get their attendance number up to even compete, and that requires some gimmicks.
So, okay, is it the 70% knock-off of Slap Shot that bothers people? Because this is still a really funny movie. Sure, it does have the feeling of two different scripts slammed together into one movie – the wacky, Will Ferrell Jackie plot, along with Woody Harrelson’s over-the-hill former NBA player trying to get his old love life sorted out story. And they don’t mesh together terrible well, but neither is particularly bad. Plus it has that fun ’70s setting and a ton of great comedians filling out the cast – highlights including Will Arnett and Andrew Daly’s broadcast team of Lou Redwood and Dick Pepperfield, Matt Walsh’s ref and source of major abuse Father Pat, Jackie Earle Haley’s burnout winner of the halftime shooting contest Dukes, and Kristen Wiig as the bear handler.
Because yes, this movie features the Best Novelty Man vs. Bear Wrestling Match this side of Game of Thrones. And yeah, the movie is crazy, in the Anchorman/Talledega Nights vein – it doesn’t try to be a realistic sports comedy, more like, say, Slap Shot. So really, why was this movie so rounded rejected? Is it gaining any traction since its release? Does anyone else have “Love Me Sexy” on their Spotify starred playlist? I can’t be the only one!
I wore a Coffee Black Tropics jersey t-shirt to Lollapalooza a few years back, when Outkast was there, and it went over big, with random high-fives from the crowd. So come on, people like this movie – hell, they recognized that Coffee Black! I couldn’t find a Downtown Funky Stuff Malone shirt! This is the third list film for screenwriter Scot Armstrong (following #348 Road Trip and #225 Old School), so clearly he gets me.
But it’s not just that audiences didn’t go see Semi-Pro – a mere $33 million, dumped in February of ’08 – but critics hated it too. It still holds only a 22% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. What the hell am I missing here? I think with my guilty pleasure movies, I’m still able to recognize when they’re bad. A lot of the lousy films on this list tend to be from when I was a kid, which have just hung around the consciousness so long they get a pass (RT 15% Howard the Duck comes immediately to mind). But I was damn near 30 on leap day ’08 when Jackie Moon first came into my life! I just don’t understand the critical drubbing!
Loads of comedians joining or advancing in the clubs today – Two-Timers Tierney (#351 Liar Liar), Meadows (#372 Walk Hard), and Roberts (also Walk Hard), Threes Ferrell (Old School, #208 Jay and Silent Bob), Corddry (also Old School, #290 Cedar Rapids), Helms (also Cedar Rapids, also Walk Hard), Haley (#239 Watchmen, #284 Bad News Bears), and Wiig (#297 How to Train Your Dragon, also Walk Hard), and our 11th and 12th Five-Timers Woody Harrelson (#289 Hunger Games, #368 Anger Management, #269 Kingpin, #343 White Men Can’t Jump) and Matt Walsh (#377 I Love You, Man, #322 Role Models, also Road Trip, also Old School). Spotlight!