Kicking & Screaming
4 out of 10
Bland Sports Comedy
They say in show biz, "Never work with kids or animals, they'll always steal the show." In "Kicking and Screaming," all of the scenes with the kids were totally unfunny and couldn't even borrow a laugh. What an embarrassment! Played in much the same style, and unfortunately at the same depth, as a Saturday Night Live sketch, this bland wet sports sock of a comedy has Will Ferrell typecast as his usual emotional, shallow and self-centered figure, this time as Phil Weston who decides to mess around with a local children's soccer team.
Phil Weston is the perfect All-American. He has a good job as a vitamin salesman, is married to his loving college sweetheart Barbara, has a big house in the suburbs and a 10 year old son Sam, but after years of soul searching, he is constantly tormented by having never been able to impress his sports coach father Buck (played by Robert Duvall). After making his grandson Sam (a wonderfully cast Dylan McLaughlin) sit out of a little league game for poor performance, Phil decides to take revenge and volunteers to coach his own team, choosing the town's all-time top underdogs The Tigers. Stocking up on coffee, recruiting local Italian butcher's Pele-esque sons and his neighbour, soccer coach Mike Ditka (played by Mike Ditka), he is set to show the world what a fine coach he is and to destroy the great Buck Weston.
Being the son of musician Bob Dylan hardly qualifies as expertise for making a comedy about children's soccer and with Jessie Dylan's talent-free direction, boy does it show! Similar to the children's classic "Bad News Bears," "Kicking and Screaming" has an excellent premise and all the zany, over-the-top inane humor for which Ferrell is famous, but with the uninspired script of the smultzy hacks Leo Benvenuti and Steve "Redneck" Rudnick, infamous for writing "Santa Claus" and "Santa Claus 2," it doesn't stand a hope from the start. After a first few surprisingly good moments, it becomes apparent that Ferrell is forced to carry the picture on his own with Robert Duvall just shouting a lot during his limited presence on screen - hardly a talent that justifies the Oscar that already sits so heavily on his mantelpiece. With only decent supporting performances by Ditka, McLaughlin and newcomers Francesco Liotti and Alessandro Ruggiero, the rest of the cast is limp and wooden, particularly the Tigers and further deterioration sets in like gangrene with the appearance of an irritating Mark Anthony Lawrence.
Despite a very funny scene with Ferrell undergoing a caffeine-induced meltdown in Starbucks, as with any sports films the track of the plot to its ending is obvious and predetermined leaving the movie one that is overall painful viewing that will leave you kicking and screaming for the exit.
Film Critic: Jennifer M Lillies