Sunday, October 30, 2005
Movie Review: "Kicking & Screaming"
Starring Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Kate Walsh and Mike Ditka
Directed by Jesse Dylan
Anyone that has seen the trailer to Will Ferrell's comedy "Kicking & Screaming" can probably figure out not only the entire storyline, but the way the movie plays out. Unfortunately, the trailer also reveals most of the funny parts of the movie, which are ultimately too few and far between.
That's not to say that the movie is inherently a failure. It's certainly watchable and Ferrell throws himself into his role – albeit maybe too much. But like a poor soccer player, it kind of runs aimlessly around the field, occasionally getting off shots on the goal that are infrequently on target.
Ferrell stars as Phil Weston, who takes over his son's soccer team after his dad Buck (Robert Duvall) trades the boy from the team he coaches. Phil has long repressed issues with his dad, feeling that nothing he has done in his life has ever been good enough for him. In general, Buck would agree with that assessment, and feels that Phil is just in for more disappointment and failure by coaching soccer – something he has no knowledge of.
In the same vein as "The Bad News Bears," Phil's team is painted as a ragtag group of losers, but little is done to develop any of the children's characters beyond the simplest of brushstrokes. Although to be fair, the film doesn't really seem to take much of an interest in the children in the first place, as the relationship between Phil and Buck is the central focus. All other characters, including Phil's wife (Kate Walsh) and son (Dylan McLaughlin) are thrown into the background.
The only other character who makes any kind of an impact is not really a character at all, but rather an actual person. Well, kind of. NFL Hall of Fame player/coach Mike Ditka shows up in the film playing himself, and agrees to help Phil as an assistant coach. His reasons are completely selfish, as he is a neighbor of Buck's and makes it a point to get under his skin at every opportunity.
Clearly, Ditka is not a polished actor by any stretch of the imagination. But his exchanges with Ferrell are more interesting than most of the action in the movie. The movie actually could have used a bit more of these scenes to break up the plot as it headed towards its predictable and pat conclusion.
If anything, I think there's a better and maybe less family-friendly movie struggling to get out here. There's a hint of it here and there, with Ferrell becoming a coffee junkie who becomes obsessed with winning no matter whose feelings he hurts. That even includes Ditka, who he begins to boss around, calling him "the juice box guy." Anyone who's ever attended children's sporting events knows there are some people, be it coaches, parents, or just other crowd members who have some definite anger management issues. These are the types of people who deserved to be humorously skewered in a movie.
Some laughs are to be had in "Kicking & Screaming," but much like the sport of soccer itself, it's a low-scoring affair.
(Rated PG for thematic elements, language and some crude humor.)