Kicking & Screaming Review
Will Ferrell is one of those actors you either love or hate - his brand of theatrical comedy doesn't appeal to everyone, but his style certainly seems to lend itself to the “big kid” type roles and he seems to have that corner of the market tied up at the moment. His high work-rate has taken him from a long running regular on the TV show Saturday Night Live (the launch pad for many US comedic actors) to a household name in what seems like a short time. He has in fact been around for a long time stealing the show in his various supporting roles and in the last five years has taken top billing in several comedies such as Woody Allen's recent Melinda and Melinda. However his cherubic face and playful nature suit family comedies and he has worked on several of these recently such as Elf and Bewitched. Kicking And Screaming is the latest in this mould and is good, wholesome family entertainment... so not for everyone then!
In this movie, Phil Weston (Ferrell) plays the bumbling, insecure son of Buck Weston (Robert Duvall), a domineering, ultra-competitive, sports retailer. Buck drove his son hard when he was younger but alas he was never a great sportsman and rather than supporting his son, Buck left him to languish as a sub on the junior football team that he coached. Phil never felt able to please his father and couldn't express his pent up emotions, so as an adult this ongoing battle with his father raged on. It came to a head when Phil saw history repeat itself as his own son was left to warm the bench for Buck's championship winning soccer team and eventually traded off to the worst team in the league - “The Tigers”. Buck's desire to win was so great that he couldn't face wasting a space in his team for a child he felt wasn't good enough to play - even though he was his own grandson. Obviously this enraged Phil and when the opportunity came to stand in as coach for the hapless Tigers, he took the chance to not only get back at his Dad but also to show the kids that it wasn't all about winning at all costs. Unfortunately after a 13-0 defeat, he realised that perhaps he'd bitten off more than he could chew and sought the assistance of his Dad's neighbour and arch rival, Mike Ditka. For those that don't know him, Mike Ditka is the larger than life former head-coach of the Chicago Bears who lead them to Superbowl victory in 1985. I knew I'd seen his face but couldn't place him at first and was confused because he played the competitive neighbour role really well - when I learned that he was there as himself and that he was a sports personality I was very surprised. His acting and on-screen presence was so good - nothing like the cringe inducing cameos that our own soccer celebs normally provide!
So Phil and Mike begin to try and turn the Tigers around - and when they scout a couple of Italian football prodigies and convince them to join their team, things start to improve for the Tigers. As you can imagine, Phil gets the taste for victory and the story goes full circle as he puts getting even with his father ahead of everything else - even his own family.
Kicking And Screaming is a light-hearted piece of family entertainment. It has some funny moments with Ferrell hamming it up as usual but also from the kids - especially the diminutive Byong Sun (or Bing Bong as Ditka called him) (Elliott Cho) - who is surely destined for greatness! It has a good moral tale underpinning it and keeps ticking over quickly enough to keep even little ones engaged. The soccer scenes are actually some of the best I've seen on screen - usually they come across either too staged or too unrealistic, but here it actually works and there is a satisfying realism as the ball thumps in to the back of the net. I'm sure this was helped by the British soccer coaches that trained the kids and choreographed the scenes.
So is it worth your 90 minutes? Well, for an adult only audience I'd have to say no - even with Ferrell's presence it is mainly a kids movie and is one for all the family to sit down and watch together. There are funny moments, but it is a gentle comedy rather than one that will have you in fits of laughter. The cast are all good - Ferrell can play this sort of role on autopilot, Duvall is good as the “competitive Dad” and surprisingly sprightly for his age. Ditka is great as, well... Ditka. I guess he's just being himself but that's enough and looking at what other roles he's “acted” - he's made numerous guest appearances as “himself” so he must be very popular in the States. Let's put it this way, I'd rather see him on screen with his big cigar and even bigger persona than messers Beckham or Big Ron! The kids are of course, the main stars of the show and provide most of the funny moments on screen. Overall, a middle of the road movie - but in this case that is not a criticism. There is a little something here for everyone, just don't expect too much in any particular area.