Arts and Entertainment

'Penelope' has a heart of gold, ‘Semi- Pro’ makes the cut — by the skin of it's afro | The Screening Room

‘Semi- Pro’ makes the cut — by the skin of its afro.

If you’ve seen “Anchorman,” “Talledega Nights” or “Blades of Glory,” you’ve pretty much already seen “Semi-Pro.” Just trade out the newsroom, NASCAR and Iron Lotus for the NBA, Woody Harrelson and one mightily afro-liscious head of hair, and you’ve got the formula for Will Ferrell’s latest silver screen farce.

Tagging in the same crack-up one-liners and slappy bit parts, Ferrell plays a familiarly cocky, schtick-weilding but affable narcissist, set once again against a backdrop of the lava lamps, bellbottoms and disco balls of ‘70s. And let’s not forget those short shorts on the hardwood. Of those, there are close-ups aplenty.

But as overdone as it may be, Ferrell still finds comedic gold telling the tale of Jackie Moon, a one-hit-wonder turned owner/promoter/coach/player of the down-and-out ABA Tropics, a Flint, Mich., basketball team on a losing streak.

But the team is one with a dream. That dream? Fourth place — just enough to secure a spot as one of the four ABA teams to become part of the NBA. With the help of washed-up NBA bench warmer Ed Monix (Harrelson) and Flint fan favorite Clarence ‘Coffee’ Black (Andre Benjamin), the Tropics fight the good fight to the top, overcoming a string of laugh-out-loud gags on the way.

Along with some hilariously deadpan color commentary delivered by Will Arnett and Andrew Daly, a painfully idiotic round of Russian roulette with “Saturday Night Live” funnyman Tim Meadows, mutany, sabotage, a host of glittering halftime routines and one gloriously triumphant vomit, “Semi-Pro” keeps viewers laughing to the final shot. It’s stuffed full of the ridiculous — think ball girls, a killer bear named Dewie and some epic granny-style shooting — that Ferrell fans go to the movies for.

Written by Scot Armstrong (“Old School”) and directed by Kent Alterman (“Elf”), Ferrell and his team are clearly in need of a new game plan, and “Semi-Pro” is perilously close to running the egotistical sports absurdity right into the ground, but audiences shouldn’t tune out just yet.

If you’re looking for an expletive-free hour-and-a-half of cinematic art, choose another theater. But for those with an appreciation for can’t-miss Ferrell buffoonery, snap on a foam finger, pull out the knee-highs and, as they say in Flint, get Tropical.

‘Penelope’ has a heart of gold.

“Penelope” sends the message of learning to love yourself, but viewers might just find themselves falling in love with this quirky family fairy-tale about a young woman with a pig’s snout making her way in the world.

While the premise is more than a bit offbeat, Christina Ricci as Penelope with a distractingly likable schnoz is a fresh and kid-friendly take on the romantic comedy genre.

Penelope is a lonely young woman confined to her palatial home by overprotective parents (the pitch-perfect Richard E. Grant and Catherine O’Hara) who think the world is not yet ready to see the mug of a swine on their beloved, blue-blooded daughter. To break the family curse that gave her the unfortunate sneezer, a host of eligible bachelors from the top tier of society come calling, but Penelope’s features send them all escaping through second story windows until Max (James McAvoy) seems to stick.

But of course Penelope’s happily ever after isn’t found until one scrappy paparazzo, an angry suitor and a Vespa-riding Annie — played delightfully by Reese Witherspoon — all make their marks on her deliciously adorable story.

Directed by Mark Palansky, written by Leslie Caveny and produced by Hollywood onscreen favorite Witherspoon, this Shrek-meets-Cinderella fable is a juicy, sweet and creative treat that sends its audience out satisfied. With one giggle-inducing proposal (Simon Woods, “Pride and Prejudice”), an escape from her imprisoning kingdom and happy adventures with some truly charming new pals, “Penelope” is an appealing little tale with a big, big heart.

The sweetly brave heroine proves it’s what’s inside that counts, and you can count this flick as one not to be missed. Pig snout and all.

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