2008 in Review: ‘Semi-Pro’

One of the most insane basketball movies ever made continues to be a fun movie to look back on. Will Ferrell may have released a better film later in the year, but “Semi-Pro” has got to be the most Ferrell movie ever made. Not only does it further embrace his weirdness that he showcased on “Saturday Night Live,” but it further shows his love of sports. The actor has long been interested in sports films. In 2006 he released “Talladega Nights” and in 2007 he had headlined “Blades of Glory” with Jon Heder. Yet “Semi-Pro” might secretly be the best of the three.

The film takes place during the NBA/ABA merger. The two leagues once competed against each other, but as the ABA became financially strained, a merger was forced. Only 4 teams made the jump to the NBA. “Semi-Pro” takes this premise and makes the most absurd historical fiction you could imagine out of the scenario. The Flint Tropics, led by Ferrell’s Jackie Moon, make a run to join the NBA. Moon, a one-hit-wonder for “Love Me Sexy” years earlier, breaks out his showmanship skills to try to keep his team alive. This includes bringing in Ed Monix (Woody Harrelson) to teach the team (namely Andre Benjamin) how to be professionals. The ensemble cast includes greats like Andy DalyWill ArnettMatt WalshDavid KoechnerMaura TierneyJackie Earle Haley, Jason Sudeikis, Tim Meadows and Rob Cordrey. The film remains one of the most underrated sports comedy of the decade.

When I Fell in Love with “Semi-Pro

The reveal of Harrelson’s Ed Monix remains one of the funniest backstories in a Ferrell film. Harrelson is legitimately good in this film, committing to the insane bit of being traded for a washing machine. He takes the mentor role seriously, pushing Clarence Withers (Benjamin) to be the best version of a player he can be. The beats that Harrelson plays in the film are reminiscent of Tom Beringer in “Major League,” with a tad more humor injected throughout. It’s Harrelson’s straight man that grounds the film, making the absurdity around him that much funnier.

Most Rewatchable Scene

When the Tropics play Anaheim, we get a good old-fashioned Will Farrell fight sequence. The teams are unwilling to endanger the NBA merger, so the only way to fight the other team is to do so during a commercial. At Monnix’s suggestion, Moon calls a timeout and bedlem erupts. I’ll let the video do the talking.

Best Scene in the Movie

Moon continues to get himself in more and more trouble to ensure the Tropics hit their minimum attendance numbers. Perhaps the best scene of this montage comes when Jackie Moon fights a bear. While Clarence gives Jackie the push to jump into the ring, Jackie feels unsure about the battle against the bear. During the fight, he finds out the supposedly trained bear has not been trained, and eventually, all hell breaks loose. Not only does the bear through Jackie around the ring, but it then escapes, causing the crowd to flee the scene in panic. It’s among the weirdest scenes that Ferrell’s ever done, yet makes sense for the comedian.

Why Should You Rewatch/Or Watch “Semi-Pro?”

Unfortunately, there was a clear lack of sports films made over the past 15 years. Unless the movie is a boxing movie, they’ve struggled to get going. That’s not to say there aren’t better basketball movies (“Uncle Drew” may actually be better), but for this film to be forgotten is crazy. It’s also populated with tons of talent that were about to break out, including SNL alums Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig. It’s a fun watch and should rise quickly in your Ferrell rankings. Is it his best film? No. But you’ll enjoy him embracing both the absurd humor that made him famous, while still having some of his trademark weird funny scenes sprinkled throughout.

What do you think of “Semi-Pro” 10 years later? Does it continue to hold up? Let us know in the comments

Check out our other retrospectives on 2008 here!

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