Funny man Ferrell finds solid formula

chris atchison/metro toronto


Will Ferrell plays a down-on-his-luck basketball owner-coach-player in the movie Semi-Pro.

Just when you thought he’d milked a character he calls The Mediocre American Male for all it’s worth, Will Ferrell returns once again with another film about a moron who succeeds in spite of himself.

Semi-Pro is the latest oeuvre from Ferrell, following in the tradition of Blades Of Glory, Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby and Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy.

This time he plays down-and-out basketball owner-coach-player Jackie Moon, whose semi-professional ’70s-era ABA team the Flint Tropics is about to be folded as the league readies to merge with the all-pro NBA.

Moon is, naturally, hopeless. But just how has Ferrell managed to get so much mileage out of essentially the same character in four films with another — Step Brothers co-starring John C. Reilly (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) — still to come in July?

“People appreciate the commentary in a way,” Ferrell explains. “The typical American response to anything in the world is ‘shut up and listen to us, we’re the best.’ So when you knock that down a peg, and I think obviously recent history has proven that we’re super fallible, I think it’s refreshing to take that down a peg. Lucky for me people think that’s funny.”

That would be an understatement. The Saturday Night Live alum’s brand of humour came into its own with 2003’s smash hit Old School in which he played Frank “The Tank” Ricard, followed by Anchorman the year after, thus cementing his status as Hollywood’s go-to box office comedy draw.

With success comes leverage and Ferrell has used his to make films that suit his sense of humour, typically with major paydays.

It also means that at times he gets to hang with the sports and entertainment elite. On this day he’s already spent the morning rubbing elbow pads with the Toronto Raptors and attempted to match the basketball mettle of Raps’ forward Jamario Moon — who coincidentally also wears No. 33, just as Ferrell’s character Jackie Moon does in Semi-Pro.

For his part, Ferrell jokes that he’s looking for royalties from the real Moon.

While you might think zero basketball training would be required to make a film like this work, Ferrell points out that playing poorly takes skill.

“Well, we actually had a two-week training camp,” he explains. “We had to learn all these plays. I’ve played a lot of basketball so I was comfortable. You have to know the sport well enough to make it look a little clunky, so I was able to use what limited basketball skills I have to make it look bad.”

Ferrell fans may be slightly disappointed that the actor appears semi-nude in the film only once — in a photo — but forgoes his usual spastic live-action underwear shots as in his prior work. He thinks fans will still appreciate Semi-Pro’s very miniscule basketball shorts.

“I think the average everyday person would appreciate that I’m willing to go to such great lengths to show my body.”

  • Semi-Pro is now in theatres.

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