WESTWOOD, Calif. — Will Ferrell has skewered figure skating, mocked NASCAR and spoofed soccer dads in his blockbuster comedies.
In "Semi-Pro,” the former "Saturday Night Live” star takes on perhaps the most comically fertile sports territory of his film career: the flamboyant American Basketball Association of the 1970s. He plays pop/soul singer Jackie Moon, who funnels profits from his single hit song, "Love Me Sexy,” into buying the fictional Flint, Mich., Tropics. He becomes the struggling last-place team's owner, coach, promoter and power forward.
When the ABA commissioner (David Koechner) announces that the league will fold and only the top four teams will be absorbed into the National Basketball Association, Moon plots to change his hapless squad's fortunes.
Ferrell, 40, has become the king of sports comedies, playing a deranged soccer dad in "Kicking and Screaming” and quirky professional athletes in the racing vehicle "Talladega Nights” and the skating flick "Blades of Glory.”
"It's a great framework to kind of do comedy in. You can parody the sport; in this movie, you can parody the era. And at the same time, you have a built-in arc that's fun for the audience to watch this team of losers try to attain the lofty goal of fourth place,” he said in a recent news conference at the swank W Hotel.
That was as serious as the answers got at the news conference, which also included Kent Alterman, the film's director; Will Arnett, who co-stars as the Tropics' razor-tongued team announcer; Andre Benjamin, who plays the team's hotshot; and Woody Harrelson, coming off his role in the bleak Oscar winner "No Country for Old Men” to play a former NBA benchwarmer brought in to help the team.
With Ferrell as their ringleader, they never stopped cracking jokes as they fielded questions about topics such as the film's wild '70s fashions.
"They were pretty outrageous. You know, you don't get a chance to kind of walk around in those clothes every day. Film is your chance to go back to that time,” said Benjamin, the boisterous group's straight man. "The '70s style, it is what it is ... a lot of the stuff wouldn't work right now.”
The musician-turned-actor said he didn't keep his character's trademark burgundy trench coat because "the material was hideous. It was in good shape, though.”
Ferrell, who previously parodied the '70s in the quotable comedy "Anchorman,” said he felt at home in the costumes.
"Looking at a lot of the reference photos of the (ABA) league and the period, you know, it obviously looks funny, but it's not that far from the truth. ... I love the fact that it really is kind of historically accurate and humorous-looking all at the same time,” he said before launching into a gag about how he might adopt one aspect of the style.
Podcast: Will Ferrell on 'Semi-Pro'