Will Ferrell's drive to incorporate his love of sports with the 1970s gets the better of him and those who go to see Semi-Pro. This time it's basketball when short shorts and lots of hair was the thing.
It's a super-silly, semi-naughty escapade during the final season of the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1976. His fan base probably doesn't remember teams like the New York Nets and Kentucky Colonels.
Those thinking send-up might see it as homage to the period and fashion trends which director Kent Alterman is inspired by - though, not to hysterical effect.
Ferrell does his promotional thing again as Jackie Moon, who once topped the music charts with his "Love Me Sexy". The opening credits gives one the glimpse of the puerile, pathetic sequences to come.
Moon uses his recording success to become player/owner of the Flint Tropics (same city as in Michael Moore's Roger & Me). The conflict of the film is created by the merging of the ABA with the NBA as the ABA commissioner (David Koechner) doesn't see the Tropics as one of the new expansion teams. But, the desperate showman in Jackie has other ideas as Flint needs to fill their arena with at least 2,000 fans.
The jokes hardly stick to the wall in a script by Scot Armstrong (Old School) that recycles the Paul Newman cult hit about a fading hockey team, Slap Shot. Woody Harrelson is more low-key to try and balance out the wacky Ferrell as NBA champ/bench warmer Monix attracted to the team because his old flame (a wasted Maura Tierney of Liar, Liar) lives in Flint. Monix isn't given a warm welcome, especially from Tropics' outspoken star player "Coffee" Black (Andre Benjamin of Be Cool).
What ensues is intermittently lively slapstick with promotional and basketball scenes whipped in a blender that never manages to establish a consistent mood. In basketball terms, a set play isn't drawn up, just relying on Ferrell going for broke. Some will like the "corndog night" and more probably Jackie taking on a bear whose trainer has more experience with cats. The cliche of rallying the team with dignity with a lowbrow streak really only has one decent gag, and, that's a running one about a loser (Jackie Earle Haley of Little Children) who makes an impossible shot during halftime.
Real history is interwoven into the period when Jimmy Carter was President and afros and polyester and plad were prevalent. The look of Semi-Pro is appropriately murky as the invention of the "alley-oop" figures into the Tropics one last chance for fame. But, the set pieces are hardly balanced in any way to make something with "jive turkey" and gratifying jokes anything more than late-night dreck.