|Kicking & Screaming (2005)
Starring: Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Mike Ditka, Kate Walsh
Director: Jesse Dylan
There are many words that spring to mind that describe Will Ferrell to a tee. Fearless, no question. Shameless, even better. One thing that Will Ferrell is not, however, is picky. He doesn’t seem to turn anything down, and all of his movies paint with a very broad brush. “Kicking & Screaming,” his newest, is no exception, but it has enough charm, and soccer balls to the groin, to overcome a truly miserable second act.
Ferrell stars as Phil Weston, who has nary a hint of athletic ability, much to the dismay of his hyper-competitive jock father Buck (Robert Duvall, clearly having a good time playing the bad guy for a change). Phil’s last straw comes when Buck trades Phil’s son Sam, who rides the pine on Buck’s soccer bench just like his father did, to the lowly Tigers (that’s right, his own grandson). With a lifetime of resentment and hostility pent up inside him, Phil sees the Tigers as a golden opportunity to serve dear old dad a little payback, and decides to coach the Tigers to greatness.
Things start simply enough. The Tigers are clearly cut from the Bad News Bears mold, and Phil takes a page from Buttermaker’s book when he brings in two Italian kids who are Peles in the making. The second act, however, is miserable. As the kids start winning, Phil turns into an insufferable, win-at-all-costs monster that would have been relieved of his duties in any real soccer league. It’s the kind of transformation that takes place only when a script demands it. Thank goodness for the far more realistic, if predictable, third act to save the day. Mike Ditka also turns in a surprisingly good performance as Buck’s neighbor and nemesis, hired by Phil to assist whipping the Tigers into shape.
There are surely lessons to be learned by child and parent alike in “Kicking & Screaming,” but one can’t escape the sense that all concerned are deliberately playing it safe. For a movie with a title like this one, it could have stood for a little more mean, some black humor to underscore the point about how both childhood and parenthood are hell. As kids’ sports movies go, “Kicking & Screaming” is fine, but suddenly, that remake of “The Bad News Bears” is looking even better.
The widescreen DVD release of "Kicking & Screaming" is a fun, single-disc effort with extras like outtakes, deleted scenes, and alternate takes. Also featured in the special features section is a behind-the-scenes "Making of 'Kicking & Screaming," and three production featurettes.