The once-hilarious Will Ferrell has found his schtick, and it is this: Dress up in outdated clothes, slap on a ridiculous wig, and act befuddled and loud. Ideally, there's a sport involved: NASCAR in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, kiddie soccer in Kicking & Screaming, figure skating in Blades of Glory. With his latest, Semi-Pro, Ferrell's playing basketball in the '70s (Ha! He's got a white dude afro! Ha! He's got really short shorts!), which I imagine is worrisome for him only in that he's starting to run out of sports. (Unless there's an outline for Will Ferrell in Mr. Baseball 2 festering in some studio exec's head, my money's on bowling as the next sport Ferrell picks.)
Semi-Pro isn't bad so much as it's just the exact same movie that Ferrell's been remaking ever since Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. But while Anchorman was funny thanks to its loose, clever, and improvised style of humor, almost every comedy Ferrell's made since has lazily relied on his "goofy dumb guy" routine, and shit's starting to get seriously old: In Semi-Pro, we watch him flail around his arms, shout/sing/drunkenly mumble, and generally look confused and enthused, all while winking to the camera about how wacky it is that he's wearing a big fur coat or a papier mâché mascot's costume. Ferrell can still, occasionally, bring it—it's genuinely funny when he gets all up in a referee's face (who also happens to be a man of the cloth), screaming "SUCK MY COCK! I WILL MURDER YOUR FAMILY!"—but overall, Semi-Pro's just dull, and neither its competent co-stars (Andre 3000, Woody Harrelson, that one chick from NewsRadio and ER) nor its pantheon of squandered bit players (Will Arnett, Andy Richter, Tim Meadows, Ed Helms, the perennially undervalued Kristen Wiig) can do much to punch things up. It'd be great if Semi-Pro didn't feel so unabashedly by the numbers, but it'd be even better if it were just funny.