Kicking and Screaming
The comedy of Will Ferrell tends to balance precariously. In order for it to work, all of the elements must be in a precise place. When they do not, he becomes extremely annoying. Ferrell (Melinda and Melinda, Anchorman) was all over the place in his Saturday Night Live Days, but then showed some promising taste for his roles in movies. He throws that all out the window as Phil Reston in Kicking and Screaming, a family "comedy" about a man projecting his competition with his father onto his son's soccer team. Phil's father, Buck (Robert Duvall, Secondhand Lions, Open Range) is a touch authority figure who never expressed his love for his son. Instead, he constantly pushed Phil, berating him when he didn't succeed at sports. The last straw came when Buck benched Phil's son Sam (Dylan McLaughlin, Seeing Other People), then traded him from his own soccer team.
Phil, raging mad (well, not really) decides to coach a competing team. This way, Sam will get a chance to play. Competition rears its ugly head, and Phil finds himself going toe-to-toe against his father and develops an obsession with winning at all costs. The plot then turns him into a complete nincompoop, doing everything he can to try to win. The whole point of the story was that Phil lost track of why he wanted to coach. He finds himself focusing not on the children, but on himself, thus turning himself into his dad. Screenwriters Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick (The Santa Clause 2, Space Jam) have him do all sorts of stupid things and act like a moron, supposedly for laughs. He hires Mike Ditka (who plays himself) to drill some discipline into Phil's team, the Tigers, a Bad News Bears type band full of outcast kids who cannot play soccer. The story is the typical sports underdog. The Tigers consists of a miniscule Asian kid, a big fat lazy kid, a token black kid, a weird looking kid, and some other outcasts. Ditka and Phil unbelievably hone them into a soccer machine, due primarily to the addition of two Italian prodigies.
The casting of Ditka sounded good on paper, but doesn't work very well. He cannot act. His delivery is wooden, and he sounds like he is reading from a cue card off screen. Plus, younger kids will probably have no idea who this is. Young kids are probably the demographic that director Jesse Dylan (American Wedding, How High) was aiming for given the PG rating and lame humor. But Dylan loses his way by focusing on Phil rather than Sam. The Sam character has little personality because he is not on screen much. It's hard to empathize with him when Dylan favors Ferrell doing crazy things. And it's not really Ferrell's fault; it is the script's. Instead of coming off as funny, he comes off as a giant baby. He whines and complains, and later turns into a jerk. It's hard to believe that people want to see this. The story is the typical sports underdog. The Tigers consists of a miniscule Asian kid, a big fat lazy kid, a token black kid, a weird looking kid, and some other outcasts. Ditka and Phil unbelievably hone them into a soccer machine (over the course of an extended montage), due primarily to the addition of two Italian prodigies. Yes, it's easier to cheat to the top rather than work hard. Too many of the jokes fall flat on their face. Soccer is not the focus, so there are not many great shots of play. And while Duvall manages a steely-eyed intense gaze for most of the film, Ditka is too distracting and Ferrell is too annoying.
|Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.|
|1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated PG for thematic elements, language, and some crude humor.|
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