Set in 1976 an arrogant doofus--who loves booze partying and women--buys an underdog professional basketball team and basically runs it into the ground until he is inspired to take his rag-tag team all the way to the NBA. Sound familiar? Semi-Pro is pretty much a mixture of every other Will Ferrell movie. He plays Jackie Moon a one-hit wonder who buys the Flint Michigan Tropics off the proceeds of his hit song “Love Me Sexy.” and tries to coach them even playing on the team. But he ends up dragging them down to last place with his promotional antics. And when the wild and crazy ABA basketball league--known for its slam dunk contests--is about to merge with the all-powerful NBA the Tropics only have one shot to make the cut. Can they pull themselves together in time? This is an underdog sports movie after all. It’s really the same old Will Ferrell shtick in Semi-Pro. Sometimes it’s hilarious but unfortunately after Anchorman Kicking & Screaming Talladega Nights and Blades of Glory much of it is rehash. Tiresome rehash. Nevertheless Ferrell has surrounded himself with another eclectic crew mixing some old favorites with new faces: old Ferrell cronies include David Koechner as the ABA commissioner and Will Arnett as a Tropics sports announcer while the newbies include Andre Benjamin as Clarence “Coffee” Black the Tropics star player and Woody Harrelson as Ed Monix a veteran player Moon brings in to help the team. Think of Monix as Bull Durham’s Crash Davis who once played in the show but has been demoted to the B leagues. Oddly enough Harrelson actually brings some dignity to the otherwise silly proceedings. Veteran executive producer Kent Alterman who has overseen such diverse films as Balls of Fury and Little Children helms his first feature film with Semi-Pro--and that’s basically how the film comes off: semi-professional. Alterman probably figured he only had to point and shoot which is mostly the case and doesn’t do anything above and beyond. The real effort comes from the script written by comedy veteran Scot Armstrong (Old School Starsky & Hutch). The first half of the film is pure Will Ferrell non sequitur fodder--beginning with Moon singing his hit “Love Me Sexy” (lyrics also included is “Lick Me Sexy” and “Hump Me Sexy”) and the obligatory scene of Moon sitting around with his buddies saying “nutty things because they’re not true.” Then there’s the bear wrestling scene. Ferrell must have a thing for the big furry animals (remember the bear pit in Anchorman?) Unfortunately the outrageousness lessens in the second half of the film becoming your straight forward underdog movie. If Semi-Pro is a huge hit Ferrell won't stop making these movies; but if it falls flat maybe he'll think of ways to reinvent himself. One can only hope.
After nine grueling years we can finally stop wondering what happened that fateful day when Lloyd Christmas (Eric Christian Olsen subbing for Carrey) first crossed paths with fellow dimwit Harry Dunne (Derek Richardson replacing Daniels). It's 1986 the first day of the new school year and our two IQ-challenged heroes literally run into each other as they race to class. Before you can screech annoyingly they're bosom buddies and the star pupils in the school's special-needs class. Only the class is a scam organized by the conniving Principal Collins (Eugene Levy) to bilk the high school of a $100 000 grant. Of course there's no doubt these oblivious oafs will ruin Collins' plan to run off to Hawaii with horny lunch lady Ms. Heller (Cheri Oteri). Unfortunately we must first endure the forced and blatant rehashing of Dumb and Dumber's funniest moments. Cue bathroom mishaps endless games of tag a fire at a gas station and fights over a beautiful but attached gal (Rachel Nichols). Director Troy Miller even ends this shameless exercise in redundancy by duplicating the predecessor's hilarious final scene featuring scantily clad beauties. Miller and co-writer Robert Brener also offer very few new nuggets of information about the wheeler-dealing Lloyd and the sweet Harry. We do find out how Lloyd chipped one of his front teeth but that's pretty much it. By the time school's out it's clear that it's less fun watching juveniles act like juveniles than watching men act like juveniles.
"Imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism " Carrey recently quipped to David Letterman about Dumb and Dumberer. He's right. With his bowl-head haircut and chipped tooth the gangly jug-eared Olsen could easily pass for a pimply faced teen-age Carrey. Close your eyes and you'll even swear it's Carrey uttering Lloyd's catchphrase "I like it a lot!" But Olsen doesn't possess Carrey's uncanny elasticity. His facial contortions look taut and strained not rubbery. And that robs this prequel of much of its comic possibilities. That said Olsen's undaunted by the task of making audiences believe he's not a pretender to the porcelain throne. He's always working to wring out as many giggles as possible from the lazy and inane script no matter how humiliating. Richardson however doesn't even try to muster as much as half of Olsen's energy and enthusiasm. He sleep-walks through the mayhem waking up to occasionally run his fingers through his unruly blonde 'do or to shoot off fretful glances whenever the going gets tough. The dumbest thing about the film though is that it gives Levy nothing to do except grope the game Oteri. You can't fault him for being bored embarrassed and unwilling to bring down this house with his customary scene-stealing antics. That leaves Bob Saget--of all people!--to provide the film's sole guffaw. All he's required to do is repeat an expletive--think fecal matter--again and again. But he's so consumed with spewing out this cuss-word that you wonder whether he's just releasing his pent-up frustrations about what his post-Full House career has amounted to. Who can blame him?
Congratulations Troy Miller you've done the impossible: make the fart-friendly Farrelly Brothers look like comedy sophisticates. Miller knows what's amusing and what isn't--he's worked for HBO's hilarious Mr. Show and Tenacious D. But he treats Dumb and Dumberer as nothing more than a cheap and cheerless attempt to belatedly exploit one of Carrey's early rubber-faced farces. Needless to say this is not the best way make us forget Harry and Lloyd's fitfully funny cross-country trek in their shaggin' wagon. Miller displays no respect for the Farrelly Brothers' commitment to passionate and painstaking execution of even the most simplest and crudest of gags. He merely bangs everything out with a minimal interest in style or originality. So there's no pleasure to be found in Harry and Lloyd's classroom disasters or their Jackass-inspired cart ride. He's also very sloppy with trying to maintain the facade of the 1980s. It's tough imagining you're back in the Me Decade when he has Lloyd prancing like the village idiot to Vanilla Ice's 1990 cringe-inducing "Ice Ice Baby" or he neglects to remove from a store rack a magazine with Chelsea Clinton on the cover. Then again perhaps Miller couldn't afford to hire someone to keep an eye on such Reagan era-related errors. So just how cut-rate is Dumb and Dumberer? Check out Lloyd's chipped tooth-it looks like someone barely remembered to black it out with a marker pen.