Published Jun 01, 2005Not even Will Ferrell could have predicted his star rising in Hollywood as rapidly as it has, and next thing you know he is one of the leading comedic actors in the industry. Whether he is saving dismal scripts (Old School) or rising to the challenge of carrying career-launching vehicles (Elf), Ferrell tends to steal every scene he's in. Thank goodness that he seldom leaves our sights during Kicking & Screaming because this story of little league soccer lacks originality and reeks of predictability. But Ferrell is the life preserver that saves this family film from going down the drain.
Phil Weston (Ferrell) grew up in a competitive household, thanks to his father Buck's (Robert Duvall) determination to be victorious at practically everything, living by the rule that second place is the first loser. As coach of the local boy's soccer team, Buck has the nerve to trade Phil's son to the Tigers (the worst team in the league) and we get a small glimpse of the bottled-up rage that has plagued Phil for years trying to escape. After witnessing how uncoordinated and unmotivated the Tigers are, Phil takes it upon himself to coach the team with the help of his father's neighbour and bitter enemy: former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka.
You can pretty much predict where this "feel-good" family film is going to wind up, especially when the Tigers expectedly make it to the finals to play against Buck's team, but there are a few oddball side-stories that prevent you from tuning out. The Tigers look to an Italian deli owner's sons to help them fly up the ranks and the two gifted boys are impressive to watch as they baffle opponents with their footwork. Another turn has Phil becoming dangerously addicted to coffee, transforming him into a complete asshole towards everyone on and off the field, and making him the victory-hungry monster that he's always resented in his father.
Without the comedic presence of Ferrell, his hysterical subtleties and the more obvious slapstick, Kicking & Screaming would be a lost cause with about as much impact as Ladybugs. Apart from the miniature Byong Sun, the kids are completely unmemorable and you actually forget that Phil even has a son on the team. Apart from grumpy old men Duvall and Ditka, there's no room for any supporting characters to latch onto, leaving the entire movie in the hands of Ferrell. Luckily, he's proven in the past that he can salvage mediocrity, but the writers of this Bad News Bears rip-off should know that there's no "I" in "team." (Universal)