KICKING & SCREAMING (Jesse Dylan, 2005)
The title of the new Will Ferrell soccer comedy KICKING & SCREAMING more accurately describes the coaches on the sidelines than the kids on the pitch. Ferrell stars as mild-mannered Phil Weston, who endured his share of athletic indignities due to his ultra-competitive father Buck, played by Robert Duvall. Phil’s son plays on Buck’s soccer team until granddad trades him to the hapless Tigers. Phil takes over as the Tigers’ coach, which brings out his previously unseen aggressive side.
The more obnoxious Ferrell becomes, the funnier KICKING & SCREAMING gets. Unfortunately his transformation into a full-blown, win-at-all-cost hothead comes too late, and then that’s quickly erased with a big hug of a conclusion. Much of KICKING & SCREAMING feels like flailing improvisation to salvage the tepid material. Ferrell’s a gamer who does what he can, but he has little support. None of the kids on the soccer team merit much time. The idea of Mike Ditka playing himself is funnier than it is in execution. The Ferrell-Duvall rivalry isn’t very interesting, and Ferrell’s relationship with his son is practically nonexistent. Still, KICKING & SCREAMING manages to remain mildly amusing because, in sports parlance, Ferrell leaves it all on the field. Phil’s coffee addiction is a recurring non sequitur that adds some laughs to a movie that could stand to put more on the scoreboard.
(Review first aired on the May 24, 2005 NOW PLAYING)