DVD Tuesday: ‘Semi-Pro’, ‘Meet The Spartans’

by W. Andrew Powell


Will Ferrell in Semi-Pro

Get your chuckle on this week with two spoofy comedies arriving on DVD. On the brighter side there is Will Ferrell‘s retro basketball comedy, Semi-Pro, while Meet the Spartans is the definite lame joke of the week. Other new releases include The Eye, The Good Shepherd, Mama’s Boy, and Control.

Will Ferrell steps into the role of another macho lunatic in his latest sports comedy, Semi-Pro, which happens to be the most surprisingly straight-forward film he’s done in years.

Set in the ’70s, during the dying days of the American Basketball Association, Semi-Pro is about one team’s dream to be a part of the NBA. Ferrell stars as Jackie Moon, a one-hit singing wonder who bought the Flint Tropics, and now coaches and plays on the team. When he finds out that the association is being absorbed into the NBA, he’s ecstatic, until he finds out that not all the teams will be included. Jackie works out a deal that the top four teams will join the NBA, which means that he now just has to turn his losing team around.

Woody Harrelson co-stars as Monix, the aging player who comes to help save the team, along with André Benjamin (also known as singer André 3000) as star player Clarence ‘Coffee’ Black, plus Maura Tierney and Andy Richter.

Semi-Pro is a lot of fun, it’s goofy, and there are more than enough great scenes to keep the film rolling, but the movie is really just another regular Will Ferrell movie. The only difference is that this time around, it feels like there is literally nothing new to see.

Harrelson and Ferrell do make a great team, with Harrelson providing most of the balance for the film, but I would have liked to see something more from them.

With its wise-cracking sports announcers, random jokes, and one-liners, Semi-Pro is the comedy of the week though, especially when compared to the next new DVD this week…

Meet the Spartans
There is something mind boggling about the way a few Hollywood types have made a business, and a profitable one at that, by spoofing hit movies with the lamest comedies imaginable.

Since the first Scary Movie, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have made careers out of writing, and sometimes producing and directing, the likes of Date Movie and Epic Movie. These are comedies, if you can really call them that, that use a few gags you’ve seen a thousand times, and string them together over the basic plot of one original film they’ve chosen as their latest target.

Focusing in on 300 this time, with the identical plot in all but a few scenes, the only time Meet the Spartans feels the least bit fun is when its killing off doppelgangers of some of the most annoying celebrities, like the American Idol judges and Ryan Seacrest. The rest of the time the film liberally borrows from movies and pop culture, but not without making sure you’re absolutely certain you know the film they’re mocking – which effectively ruins the gag.

It’s the lamest of filmmaking, without a single moment worth a laugh, and it ends up being the most exhaustive juvenile experience. Don’t even rent this film – it’s not worth a moment of your time.

The Eye
Switching gears from weird comedies to strange, imported horror, The Eye is an adaptation of the hugely popular Hong Kong film of the same name. For the adaptation, Jessica Alba plays the role of a blind violinist who has cornea transplant surgery. As you might expect, there is a problem, and while she can see the world around her, she is also seeing horrifying images of the dead.

Numerous reviews point out the film’s flaws, including Alba’s awful performance, but you can no doubt give some credit to the scriptwriter, who also wrote Snakes on a Plane. But, no matter how you slice it, the film is just another Hollywood remake that does nothing new. In other words, if you want a good scare out of The Eye, rent the original.

Other new arrivals this week…

The Good Shepherd
Directed by Robert De Niro, The Good Shepherd gives a fictionalized account of the birth of the CIA in the United States. Starring Matt Damon, along with De Niro and Angelina Jolie, the film is a taunt action-drama that has Damon trying to protect his newly formed agency from a possible leak. Critics were split on the film, with just as much praise as derision. Robert Denerstein of the Denver Rocky Mountain News did point out one serious flaw in the film; it’s not very exciting. “Moving from 1939 to 1961, an incident-heavy script finds enough material to keep several movies percolating, yet it seldom reaches a boil.”

Mama’s Boy
A perpetual 29-year-old loser, Jon Heder, who still lives with his mother has to deal with the new boyfriend, played by Jeff Daniels. With Diane Keaton as the mother, the cast is certainly formidable, but apparently the script just wasn’t up to the task. In looking through reviews around the net I couldn’t find a single positive comment about the film. The only good thing I could see coming out of it would be the death of Heder’s career, which is on borrowed time if you ask me.

If you’ve read this column before, you know that I previously mentioned the release of this amazing film which covers the short-lived story of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division. With Anton Corbijn at the helm, rich cinematography, and starring a fantastic Sam Riley as Ian, this is a can’t-miss movie, especially for alternative music fans.

Television on DVD…

Get Smart – The Complete Series
One of my favorite series from the second-half of the ’60s returned for one, brief season in 1995. Featuring the same title, the show starred Don Adams again as CONTROL agent Maxwell Smart, along with Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, and none other than Andy Dick as their son, Zach Smart.

With the release of the new film this summer, it was inevitable that this short-lived second series would rise again, but aside from the late Adams, it should never have seen the light of day again. Much like other bad shows from the 90s, and Dick’s previous lame comedies, there are few laughs to be found in this Get Smart.

Also out this week is season four of Rescue Me, season three of Weeds, and Meerkat Manor: The Story Begins.

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