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HTF DVD Review: Semi-Pro - Let's Get Sweaty Edition



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#1 of 1 Neil Middlemiss

Neil Middlemiss

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Posted June 02 2008 - 02:31 PM

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Semi-Pro
Let's Get Sweaty 2-Disc Unrated Edition






Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Year: 2008
US Rating: Unrated and R Rated Theatrical Edition (For Language and Some Sexual Content)
Film Length: 100Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, Stereo Surround
Subtitles: Optional English and Spanish



US Release Date: June 3rd, 2008

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“In the anals of history people are going to be talking about three things: the discovery of fire, invention of the submarine, and the Flint, Michigan Mega Bowl…”



Will Ferrell seems like he has playing the same person over and over again. His superb Rob Burgundy was a model character that he has enjoyed playing with slight variations ever since, most successfully as Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights. The variations are there, beyond subtle, but they really do exist. For example his Anchorman, the progenitor of his distinct shtick on the big screen, was absurdly blind to reality, brash, chauvinistic, cocksure and likeably smug. As Ricky Bobby, he was equally as smug about his talents, but was a great deal duller in the IQ arena and simmered with a southern rationale and pride of his sport. In Blades or Glory, his character was PG-13 promiscuous, angry and rebellious with a softer underside. Now, in Semi-Pro, the common thread of his style of comedy is still deeply present, as it always is, but he portrays a flamboyant, simple, normality oblivious owner, coach and player on an ‘American Basketball Association’ (ABA) team in 1976.

The story is familiar and simple enough. Jackie Moon’s (Will Ferrell) poorly performing ABA team, for which attendance is at an all time low, must improve performance and attendance in order to become one of the four teams being merged into the NBA. Being in last place when the opportunity is presented, he and his team have quite the hill to climb and so acquire a professional, but past his prime player. Trading Monix (Woody Harrelson) for a refrigerator and relying on the ‘better than the rest of the team’ talents of Clarence 'Coffee' Black (Andre Benjamin), the team dig in and work for that much coveted fourth place and a spot in the NBA.

It is a likeable film with Ferrell’s outlandish, but not slapstick behavior providing the most appreciated and humorous performance. It ranks above the tired Blades of Glory, perhaps because of it’s more adult tone which frees up Ferrell to be looser with his creativity and his language.

This film marks Kent Alterman’s directorial debut, working from a screenplay by Scot Armstrong (and filled with barrages of Ferrell and friends improv) and is quite solid for a first time director, but coupled with some listlessness in the script, the beginner director makes some missteps that affect the framing of shots and the flow and pace of the film. Setting the film in Flint, Michigan is a nice idea, as is the name ‘Tropics’ for a team nestled in the concrete of the automaker state. The 1970’s period is also ripe with possibilities as Anchorman so cleverly proved. But Semi-Pro beyond the fun of the idea, doesn’t quite come together.

Among the chief issues the film suffers from is the supporting cast. Andre Benjamin and Woody Harrelson in particular are fine actors in the film, but don’t get to enjoy comedic escapades in the same way each member of the ensemble cast had in Anchorman. Here, Woody Harrelson is far too much of a straight man and at time seems to be part of a more dramatic toned film than a silly comedy. The rest of the Tropics players are given little to do beyond participating in the B-ball action which is a real waste of talent Actor/Comedians like DeRay Davis are barely used in that capacity. In fact, the film is filled with comedic talents, including Andy Richter, Rob Corddy, Tim Meadows and Ed Helms that are utterly wasted. The only other real laughs to come out of the film are from Will Arnett and Andrew Daley, as dueling sports announcers. Arnett’s Lou Redwood character is a boozed-out, filthy minded wreck and Daley’s ‘Dick Pepperfield’ is ludicrously straight laced and proper, trying hard to remain professional amongst the silliness surrounding him. They are stand-outs in the cast, providing most of the films off-handed irreverence.

Likeable, but forgettable is perhaps the best way to sum it all up.

Note: This release contains both the original theatrical cut and an unrated edition along with a digital copy of the film on the second disc.





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The DVD edition of Semi-Pro is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. As with the blu-ray release, it’s a nice looking image, a little darker, murkier in the shadow elements, but is still a nice and not too over-stylized image.

The colors are nicely represented and there are no visual distortions to speak of. It is a little softer than I might have expected. The games are brightly lit and show off the best of the image. There is a grain-look in some scene that I believe to be by choice and the overall image has no unwanted distortions, edge enhancement or other distracting issues to speak of




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The Semi-Pro 2 disc edition comes with an active Dolby Digital 5.1 EX surround sound audio track and an English 2.0 stereo surround. The EX track is solid but not over-done. There wasn’t too much rattle from the sub-woofer but the bass was consistent throughout. Crowd scenes provided the best demonstrations of the surround sound capabilities for the audio here, and with many crowd scenes, there were plenty of times when you felt a part of the crowd watching the court action happen. It could have been a little more vibrant in places; a little more alive, but generally speaking this is a nice audio.



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From the Cutting Room Floor - (15:16) – 4 Deleted scenes and 3 segments of alternate improvisational runs present a mixed bag. The deleted scenes are ok, but as I always find, the seemingly endless creativity of the actors in the improv was funnier and funnier the longer it lasted. .

Behind the Scenes
A Short History of the ABA - (6:58) – This features interviews with the ABA fan and director of the movie, Kent Alterman, along with the writer and former ABA players. The fun-filled, fan-fueled and much ‘cooler’ ABA was a great subject to explore on film and the enthusiasm everyone on camera shares for the now defunct league is palpable.

”Love Me Sexy” – The Story Behind the One Hit Wonder - (5:24) – The creation of the song and working with Nile Rogers to emulate the sound of the 70’s is briefly discussed.

Recreating the ABA - (12:46) – Most of the time here is spent on the process for selecting the player extras for the ABA, having to have a certain style of play and a lean, fast look. The work on creating the look of the Tropics arena is brief, but interesting.

Bill Walton Visits The Set - (2:38) – Former NBA player Bill Walton visits the set and is dressed with some funky hair and odd facial hair.

Four Days in Flint - (5:38) – A quick look at shooting in flint, turning a few warm, blue skied days into a cold, wintry town.

The Man Behind Semi-Pro - (23:56) – This is really a medley of sorts looking at the variety of talent involved in the making of the movie, both in front of and behind the camera.

Promotions
“Love Me Sexy” – Music Video - (1:58)

Flint Tropics Talk With Dick Pepperfield - (6:58) – A couple of VHS looking snippets with the character of Dick Pepperfield interviewing Jackie Moon. Quite funny. Clips from here show up during some of the other special features.

Trailers – This includes a Teaser, Theatrical and Red Band trailer for Semi-Pro.




Final Thoughts

Semi-Pro is missing a comedy spark, the kind of glow that made Ferrell’s two best films, Anchorman and Talladega Nights funny in a way that can be enjoyed ever more upon repeated viewings. Following Blades of Glory up with this only slightly better film makes me worry for Ferrell’s comedy longevity. Unlike Billy Bob Thornton, who has chosen to play essentially the same person in movie after movie with ever diminishing returns, Ferrell still has a lot of life left in his brand, but he must be careful not to choose films where Scot Armstrong is the writer (he was responsible for School for Scoundrels, The Heartbreak Kid and Road Trip). He should also remember that so long as he is surrounded by some seriously funny people at the top of their game (think of Steve Carrell’s ‘gerbily’ weatherman in Anchorman and John C Reilly as Ricky Bobby’s racing bud) – he will sizzle with absurdity, inventiveness and wickedly sharp improv.


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Neil Middlemiss
Kernersville, NC
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
My DVD Collection





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