What they lack in free corndogs, the Flint Michigan Tropics make up for in ridiculous stunts whether it’s dancing in family friendly costumes when serving as their own halftime show entertainment or watching the death-defying antics of their player, owner, announcer and coach Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell) as he roller skates over several bikini clad ball-girls or wrestles a bear. Aside from forbidding homemade nachos at the game, Jackie seems to only have one rule when it comes to running his fictitious ABA 1976 ball club and that is “E.L.E.” or “Everybody Love Everybody.” It’s these words he’s tried to personally take to heart with his one-hit wonder “Love Me Sexy,” that he never fails to mention or play with zero to minimal prompting, especially when celebrating with his teammates and their comely groupies at his own private club, decked out like a stereotypical 70’s era pimp, sporting a wild Caucasian version of the Afro.
When Jackie learns that at the end of the season the ABA will merge with the NBA with only four teams absorbed before the rest dissolve, he ignores the rumors that it will most likely be the Nets, Spurs, Pacers and Nuggets and decides to fight for professional glory by trading in the team’s washing machine for Monix (Woody Harrelson), a once-great NBA point guard whose reputation for having at one time either broken the collarbone or punched everyone else in the face makes Jackie’s wish for a Flint Tropics version of a love-in seem far more unlikely. Yet when Monix puts equal dedication into making plays as he is in trying to make a play for former flame Lynn (Maura Tierney), some of team’s most promising players, including Coffee Black (Andre Benjamin) decide that Mr. White Men Can’t Jump should be the one calling the shots in lieu of Elf.
While frankly not nearly as hilarious as some of Ferrell’s alternate frat-pack comedies like the outstanding Anchorman as well as his other sports films (Ricky Bobby) and I know I’ll lose some film snob “cred” for admitting this, I found myself laughing more often than not throughout Semi-Pro. And this was far easier to concede given all of the surprisingly unique gags such as Jackie’s unfortunate choice to overlook the perils of sweat and makeup, insisting the entire team don eyeliner for their televised game, a constantly smoking and drinking Will Arnett who’s so erroneously convinced he was in Vietnam that he’s willing to play Russian Roulette at a spirited poker game, and their constant arguments with the priest-- Father Pat-- who also serves as the referee.
Even though a few of the jokes fall flat and it never quite scores on some of its creatively off-the-wall potential especially when considering the characters played by Tierney as well as smaller, muddled and vaguely written turns by Rob Corrdry, Andy Richter, and Andrew Daly, it’s great to see Harrelson tackling a movie in the same vein as Kingpin, especially coming off of the heels of impressive work in the Oscar winning No Country for Old Men. Still, it’s a Will Ferrell movie first and foremost and his loyal fan base won’t want to miss the chance to see the funnyman trying to encourage everyone to love him sexy while getting tropical in Flint, Michigan.