KICKING & SCREAMING
**1/2 (out of 5)
May 13, 2005
Will Ferrell as PHIL WESTON
Robert Duvall as BUCK WESTON
Mike Ditka as MIKE DITKA
Kate Walsh as BARBARA WESTON
Musetta Vander as JANICE WESTON
Dylan McLaughlin as SAM WESTON
Josh Hutcherson as BUCKY WESTON
Directed by: Jesse Dylan
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
When you think of family films, Will Ferrell’s name is not the first one that comes to mind. And considering his body of work in film, his name probably isn’t the first couple dozen that come to mind. However, that’s not stopping him from trying his hand at a family film with “Kicking & Screaming.”
Ferrell plays Phil Weston, a vitamin salesman who never could live up to the expectations of his father (Robert Duvall). When Papa Weston cuts Phil’s son from his soccer team, Phil becomes the coach of a rival team. Using the coaching and recruitment skills of Mike Ditka (played by Ditka himself) and the soccer prowess of two young Italian butcher apprentices, Phil marches his team to face off against his father’s in the playoffs.
Of course, there are lessons to be learned in the end. “Kicking & Screaming” seems to be exactly what you’d expect – a “Bad News Bears” with soccer moms. Instead of Walter Matthau as the crotchety coach, you’ve got a frenetic Will Farrell.
Ferrell is the keystone to this film, but that turns into a problem rather than an asset. Ferrell is great for off-the-wall comedies like “Anchorman” and “A Night at the Roxbury.” Even “Elf,” which had a lot of heart, had a strange screwball quality that made it work.
“Kicking & Screaming” tries too hard to be a Will Ferrell vehicle. It focuses too much on him, which really doesn’t contribute to the story. Here we have a cast of weird misfits, and the script simply ignores them for Ferrell’s antics. The kids are what made “The Bad News Bears” work so well, ‘cause no one wanted to see a movie about Walter Matthau.
This isn’t a slam on Ferrell. I find the guy to be one of the funniest men alive. But I’d much rather have seen a movie that concentrated on the wacky kids on the soccer team. The poor kids in the cast are just wasted, even though you can see talent burning inside them.
Some of the subplots include Ferrell discovering the joys of caffeine. There’s also several moments where he spars with an overbearing suburbanite played by Alex Borstein. These bits would work as sketches on Saturday Night Live,” but they just seem out of place in this film.
Robert Duvall phones in his lines as his stock character. Sure, he plays the grumpy old man as good as anyone else, but there’s not much demanded of him in this film. In fact, his character really is a bit of a jerk. It’s characters like these that make it hard to feel sympathy.
Mike Ditka actually does a decent job acting, but he’s overused in the film. He should have been left in as a simple cameo instead of a constant reminder that he’s a famous football coach. The focus on Ditka only contributes to the scattered focus of the film.
At its core, “Kicking & Screaming” is a family film. There’s not a lot out there to give it competition, so it’s worth it for an outing with the kids. After all, you’re probably not going to be taking the family to see something like “House of Wax.” What other choice do you have?