KICKING AND SCREAMING
Vitamin salesman Phil Weston (Will Ferrell) has never recovered from his childhood, in which his soccer-crazy, ever-competitive father Buck (Robert Duvall) has always had the upper hand. Now Buck coaches the Gladiators in which his own 10 year old Bucky (Josh Hutcherson) is the star player, while Phil's 10 year old son Sam (Dylan McLaughlin) is relegated as a bench warmer. By default, Phil starts to coach the Tigers, a team of inexperienced young soccer players who are at the bottom of the league roster. As the Tigers head for an inevitable head-to-head play off against The Gladiators in the Grand Final, there is more at stake than simply the soccer league championship.
Review by Louise Keller:
A family comedy about father son relationships, Kicking and Screaming is a moderately funny vehicle for Will Ferrell, whose married-with-child Phil is ever-resentful of his manically competitive father, played to perfection by Robert Duvall. American Wedding director Jesse Dylan helms this story about SNAG vitamin salesman Phil Weston (Ferrell) who's as mad as hell and can't take it any more. The result is chaos on the soccer field as the inept Phil starts coaching the under-dog under-12 team and learns that winning isn't everything. There are a few broad laughs and Ferrell is everything you would expect him to be - irritating, occasionally amusing and sometimes inspired. As for Duvall, it's a joy watching him in this novel, comedic role. He never takes himself too seriously, but instils plenty of business in his Buck, who delivers delicious lines like 'I take a vitamin every day - it's called a steak.'
Duvall's Buck has pipped Phil at the post all his life and as a result, Phil feels a failure. All the important moments of his life seem to be usurped by the buoyant Buck - from the day Phil proposes to his wife-to-be (Kate Walsh) to the day he becomes a dad. The final straw comes when Phil's 10 year old son Sam (Dylan McLaughlin) is traded to the big-time-losing Tigers Team. That's when Phil comes on board as coach, and mutters to the confused team of youngsters: 'This is going to be fun,' through clenched teeth. The script has a few funny ideas, the most novel being when Phil recruits two budding young soccer players from the kitchen of an Italian butcher. The first time we meet these two non-english speaking 10 year olds, they are wearing surgical caps, practising their dribbling and head kicks in the kitchen. By the time they are led onto the soccer field, the winning game plan is to always pass the ball to the Italians!
The kids are all cute, especially little Elliot Cho as Byong Sun, the adopted son of a lesbian couple, whose presence also provides a few amusing moments. In addition, there's a hilarious sub plot about coffee, a substance to which Phil becomes addicted. It all begins when Buck's neighbour Mike Ditka, who himself is looking for any excuse to score points over Buck, becomes Phil's assistant coach, and tells him he needs a coffee fix. Phil starts a bonding exercise with his young team in his backyard with tents and a fire, as they howl at the moon, prompting all the dogs in the neighbourhood to come rushing. There's madness and mayhem too, as the Tigers make the Grand Final, when there is much more at stake than winning. Ferrell, dressed in a track suit adorned with tiger claws and a roaring beast on the back, starts by telling his team to play dirty, until he wakes up to himself.
I have never been an outright Will Ferrell fan, but like Adam Sandler, he does grow on you. Kicking and Screaming is mostly fun and if you're not expecting too much, you will no doubt enjoy the game.
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KICKING AND SCREAMING (M)
CAST: Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Mike Ditka, Kate Walsh, Musetta Vander, Dylan McLaughlin, Josh Hutcherson, Steven Anthony Lawrence, Jeremy Bergman, Elliott Cho, Erik Walker
PRODUCER: Jimmy Miller, Charles Roven
DIRECTOR: Jesse Dylan
SCRIPT: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lloyd Ahern II, Donald E. Thorin
EDITOR: William Kerr, Stuart H. Pappé, Peter Teschner
MUSIC: Mark Isham
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Clayton Hartley
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 11, 2005
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
VIDEO RELEASE: December 7, 2005