There's nothing you haven't seen before in the basketball comedy Semi-Pro, but the Will Ferrell vehicle qualifies as a sort of cinematic comfort food: it's the mac and cheese of the cineplex. The emphasis is on cheese, with Ferrell playing Jackie Moon, the player-coach-owner of the Flint Tropics. Unfortunately his team draws more for Jackie's crazed promotions than any skill on the court. In the film's 1976 setting, these are the once-heady, now-waning days of the ABA, a less-successful version of the NBA—if the Tropics don't step up their game, they'll be going the way of the rainforest.
With depressed Flint, Michigan as the appropriate backdrop, the unaccountably confident Moon is sure he can get the Tropics into the top four ABA teams that will survive an NBA merger. Step one: trade the team washing machine for NBA also-ran Ed Monix (Woody Harrelson). Step two: escalate the wacky promotions to draw in the crowds, even if it means choreographing a dance number for the team—including André Benjamin's Clarence "Coffee" Black—to perform in tropical-themed mascot outfits (seahorses, flamingos, and the sun). Step three: walk into "the anals of history" (um, sic). It's all about Ferrell's gift for characters fueled by unbridled, spontaneous enthusiasm: assuming his time is on the way to the big time on the announcement of the merger, he exclaims, "I'm so happy I can't even feel my arms!"
The always welcome Maura Tierney is on hand to engage in a seriocomic subplot about her relationship with Monix, and the rest of the supporting cast is a who's who of comedy talent: David Koechner, Andy Richter, Matt Walsh, and, most surprisingly, Jackie Earle Haley, whose last role earned him an Oscar nomination. Fresh face Andrew Daly, paired with known quantity Will Arnett, kills as straight-laced Tropics announcer Dick Pepperfield. We know we're in for the Ferrell school of innocent profanity and sexual bravado right from the start: a credits sequence set to catchy faux 1970's gold record "Love Me Sexy." Dick and boob jokes are par for the course in a Ferrell vehicle, but they're always just a cut above the usual nonsense—it's in the verbal construction and the well-timed delivery. The jokes are frat-friendly to be sure (the script's by the writer of Old School), but with the satisfyingly absurdist twists we've come to expect from Ferrell flicks.
Semi-Pro makes a fast break onto Blu-Ray and DVD in mirrored 2-Disc Unrated "Let's Get Sweaty" editions. Both the Original Theatrical Version (1:31:24) and new Unrated Extended Version (1:38:27) of the film are included on disc one in transfers that actually look better than the film did in theatres (while preserving the rusty seventies look the filmmakers intended); plus you get to hear Will Ferrell croon "Love Me Sexy" in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.
Disc two sends us to showers of extras. The rewarding From the Cutting Room Floor section (15:16 with "Play All" option) is well worth watching in full, with four Deleted/Alternate Scenes—"Dick Pepperfield Opening" (1:27), "Monix Prologue" (1:58), "Tropical Fever Dance" (:54), and "Alternate Ending: Where Are They Now?" (2:17)—and three unused Improv runs: "Dick and Lou" (1:39), "Tropics Weekly" (3:42), and "Andy, Amy, and Will" (3:17), the latter actually separate runs by Andy Richter, Amy Sedaris, and Ferrell.
Next up is the Behind-the-Scenes section. "A Short History of the ABA" (6:50) delivers on its promise, letting us know, among other facts, that the three-pointer originated in the ABA. Director Kent Alterman, Ferrell, writer Scot Armstrong, former NBA player Jerome "Pooh" Richardson, and former ABA players, James Silas, Artis Gilmore, and George Gervin participate. "Recreating the American Basketball Association" (12:46) adds comments by streetballer Grayson Boucher, basketball coordinator Mark Ellis, and actors Andre Benjamin, Jay Phillips, and Josh Braaten while depicting the behind-the-scenes process of casting b-ball talent and coaching the stars.
Behind-the-Scenes featurettes continue with "'Love Me Sexy'—The Story Behind the One-Hit Wonder" (5:24), with comments by music producer Nile Rodgers and Patti LaBelle; "Bill Walton Visits the Set" (2:40), adding fresh participants former NBA player Walton and head hair stylis Bridget Coot while revealing the director's surprisingly notable role in ABA history; "Four Days in Flint" (5:38), which focuses on the good community relations and production challenges on location, adding comments by co-producer Josh Church; and "The Man Behind Semi-Pro" (23:56), the closest to a making-of doc, adding the two cents of Maura Tierney, Woody Harrelson, Richter, Rob Corddry, Will Arnett, Andrew Daly, and Jackie Earle Haley.
The Promotions section features a "Love Me Sexy" Music Video (1:59) and two installments of "Flint Tropics Hot Talk with Dick Pepperfield": "Ball Girls" (1:14) and "Pancakes and Camels" (1:25). Also provided: the film's Teaser (:45), Trailer (2:28), and Red Band Trailer (1:48). More good news about this fully loaded Blu-Ray special edition: nearly all of the extras are presented in high-definition (a combination of 1080p and 1080i), and there's a funny (and addictive) Blu-Ray bonus that's ironically low-tech: a Pong-styled interactive game called Jackie Moon's Super Agility Trainer. Score!
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