Kicking and Screaming

Kicking and Screaming reminded me of the kid whose father takes him to a hooker for his first time. A quick in and out and it’s all over. With any luck, fond memories are all the kid will take from the experience. That pretty much sums up this latest family-friendly sports comedy starring Will Ferrell as a man who agrees to coach his kid’s soccer team.

In the same vein as The Bad News Ladybug Ducks, Kicking and Screaming is this year’s model: Clueless coach takes a ragtag group of losers and transforms them into a tightknit group of champions. Comedians love these type of films as it allows them to riff on immature behavior while engaging in it. Who better to turn losers into winners than someone waiting on the sideline with a clever comeback or reaction?

At least Ferrell deals with these man-child issues with some degree of realization and sympathy. His agenda is twofold: Impress son Sam (Dylan McLaughlin) by coaching his team, but deep down Phil Weston (Ferrell) wants to impress his father Buck (Robert Duvall), coach of a rival team. The father-son relationship is the film’s calling card, a sweet nod to missed opportunities. Phil doesn’t need to plant a cornfield to know his father has become an emotional ghost in his life.

When Buck kicks grandson Sam (Dylan McLaughlin) off his team, Phil decides to get even by coaching Sam’s new team the Tigers. With an assist from some ringers and Mike Ditka, Phil guides the pint sized punters from last place to the finals, hoping to win the respect and love of both his son and father.

The screenplay by Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick is pretty rudimentary, barely a rung higher than a television sitcom, yet the cast and director Jesse Dylan acknowledge the obvious and just have fun with the premise. There’s nothing new under the sun here, but Ferrell shines as a man whose heart is in the right place. Ferrell handles the transition from mild-mannered vitamin store owner to obsessive soccer dad to understanding parent with ease. Phil’s sudden caffeine addiction aside, Ferrell wisely avoids turning the character into a caricature.

Duvall expands on his Great Santini persona playing a man who expects nothing but the best from his family. Duvall turns disappointment into an art form, and his constant consternation is hysterical. Every soldier needs a platoon, and the kids that make up his team are priceless. Little soldiers each and every one, the perfect compliment to the Tigers. Kicking and Screaming is ultimately about overcoming adversity and differences, and on that level the film works extremely well. It won’t win any awards, but it does achieve its goal with a fair amount of frivolous fun.

Familiar Footwork

Soccer Comedy Reaches Its Goal

Kicking and Screaming

Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Kate Walsh, Mike Ditka, Dylan McLaughlin. Directed by Jesse Dylan. Rated PG. 87 Minutes.

Larsen Rating: $5.00

Comments are closed.