Kicking & Screaming
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Jesse Dylan
scr Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick
with Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Mike Ditka, Kate Walsh, Musetta Vander, Dylan McLaughlin, Josh Hutcherson, Elliot Cho, Steven Anthony Lawrence, Jeremy Bergman, Dallas McKinney, Erik Walker
release US 13.May.05, UK 22.Jul.05
05/US Universal 1h36

Go get 'em, tiger: Cho and Ferrell

ferrell duvall ditka

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Kicking & Screaming There's nothing remotely original in this goofy kids' sports movie, but at least the script adds a refreshingly funny zing that keeps us chuckling through the painfully predictable plot.

Even as an adult, Phil (Ferrell) is afraid of his high-achieving father Buck (Duvall), who even upstages Phil's marriage to Barbara (Walsh) by marrying his own gorgeous wife (Vander) and then has another son (Hucherson) on the same day as Phil's son (McLaughlin) is born. A decade later they're facing off across their 10-year-old sons' soccer field, coaching rival teams and heading for a big showdown at the championship match. If, that is, Phil and his new assistant Mike Ditka (as himself) can whip these losers into shape.

Do we have even a remote question as to where this is heading? It almost seems pointless to continue filming something like this once the premise has been established. It certainly feels pointless watching it. And sure enough, there's not a single surprise in store. Ferrell does his standard cornball shtick, from the silly opening scenes when he plays himself as a clumsy school kid right through to the bumbling father who's still intimidated by his extremely intimidating dad. He does grow on us--and much of his performance here is endearingly funny. But he's done this kind of thing so many times before that it's not enough reason to watch it again.

The rest of the cast is fine. Duvall has very little to do, Ditka is just an exaggerated version of himself, and the kids don't register very strongly (they're all stereotypes). There are some lovely soccer sequences that actually capture the joy of playing the game. Although it takes the arrival of two European boys to find that spark. And as the grinding gears of the plot push us ever further into a corner, we can feel the sap rising around us. The ending is just too heartwarming and slushy for words. But at least that sharp-edged dialog doesn't give up until the bitter end. Makes it almost bearable overall, and sporadically very funny indeed.

cert PG themes, innuendo 26.May.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall