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"Kicking & Screaming"

Directed by Jesse Dylan.
Written by Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick.
Starring Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall and Mike Ditka.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  5/16/05


Hey, it's got Will Ferrell in it, and therefore, I had to see "Kicking & Screaming."

(You're right--I didn't see "Melinda and Melinda", that Woody Allen flick with Ferrell from a few months ago, but I lost most faith in Woody Allen around, oh, forever ago.)

Directed by the same guy that directed Meth and Redman in "How High" three years ago, "Kicking & Screaming" stars Ferrell as Phil Weston, a pharma shop owner that is a mild-mannered father of an 11-year-old named Sam (Dylan McLaughlin) and is the son of a fanatical youth-league soccer coach named Buck (Robert Duvall).  When Buck trades away Sam from his current team, and the coach of the team that Sam was traded to doesn't want to coach the current season, Phil steps in to coach the team.  After a disastrous start to the season, Phil hires retired Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka (himself) to be an assistant coach and to whip his current bunch of losers into shape...just in time to take on Buck's team, the Gladiators, in the league final.

After a very funny intro detailing how Phil meets his wife, "Kicking & Screaming" gets going slowly but by the time Phil's new squad, the Tigers, starts winning, the movie picks up nicely.  Ferrell is his usual self, but movies like this really depend on how good the team of kids is and thankfully, they are fantastic.  From the little Asian kid Byong Sun (Elliot Cho) to the Italian wunderkinds (Francesco Liotti and Alessandro Ruggiero) that Phil adds to the roster midseason, the Tigers players are mostly a funny group.  Add that to Ferrell's antics, and you get a great combination for the on-field soccer laughs.

But, even when "Kicking & Screaming" gets off the field, the laughs still come through at a steady clip, be it constant bickering between Phil and his dad Buck (and a memorable tetherball sequence) or Phil's addiction to coffee later in the film.  Ditka was actually pretty funny in this film, and Duvall--while giving you the impression that he is dialing it in--seems to enjoy hamming it up with Ferrell and/or Ditka throughout the movie.  Hell, even throwaways like when Mark (Steven Anthony Lawrence), a goofy-looking kid on the Tigers that thinks he is the funniest guy in the world, is running up the field and--while gasping for air--says

"I'm really out of shape for an 11-year-old!",

I was still laughing at stuff like that.  Being a family film, "Kicking & Screaming" has the requisite Lesson That Must Be Learned near the end and a bailout ending thanks to said Lesson.  I never love this but I understand that this is the cost of doing PG-rated business.  Also, Phil's wife (Kate Walsh) is mostly left on the sideline, given nothing more to do than remind Phil he is becoming addicted to winning soccer games; I felt she was a wasted comedic element.  Also, no outtakes?  This is Will Ferrell we're talking about here.  Also, I got a little tired of watching goalies--as the ball is coming directly at them--dive out of the way to allow goals; I know it's tough to choreograph scenes like this, but the goals in "Kicking & Screaming" mostly look dumb.

But, that's picky.  As a whole, this was good times; I won't need to watch it again but I was laughing heartily while sitting there in the theater.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09