Kicking & Screaming (2005)

(Release Date: May 13, 2005)

it's unoriginal, yeah, but it's so damned funny!it's unoriginal, yeah, but it's so damned funny!it's unoriginal, yeah, but it's so damned funny!

A derivative minor flick saved by its stars!

J.C. Maçek III... Kick this critic in the Balls!
J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

Who was it that said there is a finite number of stories to be told and everything new is just a retelling of the same gosh darned things all over again?

I hate to say it, I hate to say it, but Kicking & Screaming is a modern day shining example of this, and proves the point better than any filmologist ever could. All the elements of the been-there-done-that sports movies are here: You get the worst team in the league (what ever league that might be), set up a rivalry between them and the best team (likely because the team leaders are affiliated in some way from the past), a bet is involved, a Sports Training Montage takes place, the coach pushes 'em all too hard, a couple of Ringers show up, the underdogs win, with a little help from their worst player and everyone, but everyone learns something and is a better person because of it all... especially the coach. If you've seen anything from The Bad News Bears to Miracle, you've got a good idea how this film goes. Heck it's only been a decade or so since the very formula was applied to kids' soccer in the form of The Big Green (only in that movie the coaches were brothers, not father and son)!

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Kicking & Screaming... Three Cheers... and three stars.
So, what saves Kicking & Screaming from the ever-hatin' pit of the derivative whose latest mascott is House of Wax? It's the acting. Will Ferrell is ever hilarious in his patented overreacting loser persona, and all of his films are essentially packed with excuse after excuse for him to enter into ever more farcical situations in which he will freak out in the most hilarious ways possible. Kicking & Screaming is filled with just such opportunities, and when such an opportunity is missing, Ferrell rips a new one out for himself. If that's not enough (and it may not be, depending on your tastes), Robert Duvall holds his own against old Willy and proves (again) that he's one of our more versatile actors, and that, let's face it, the guy has no "just pay me" mode. Still not convinced? Well, Mike Ditka appears playing the part of a former New Orleans Saints Football coach named Mike Ditka (I hear he may have coached the Chicago Bears at one point too... I'll double check).

Ferrell is Phil Weston the hilariously sports-challenged son of Duvall's sports-junkie Buck. Phil is such a disappointment to the Red Blooded Buck, that he actually has a second son (Josh Hutcherson's almost ne'er seen Bucky) to replace Phil... on the same day Phil's son Sam (Dylan McLaughlin) is born. When Buck Sr. trades his Grandson Sam from his winning soccer team to the worst in the league, Phil decides to coach that team to greatness... and Ditka, who hates Buck like I hate splinters of wood in the eye (and that movie Zombie 5), is only too happy to help in every humiliating detail.

From that point... well, it basically follows that same derived plot I outlined above. Oh, it's funny... it's extremely funny, and it's great for the kids (Ferrell's more grown-up comedy is somewhat toned down for a younger audience), but it's nothing you haven't seen before either. And while the dynamics and chemistry of these good actors (let's not forget Kate Walsh's Barbara Weston), there are a lot of things here that simply fall short. When Phil and Bucky share a brotherly moment on the field during the finale, you can tell it's supposed to be both funny and touching, but since we've never really seen Phil and Bucky together before, and Bucky hadn't spoken his first line up until this point, one wonders why one should care. But for every plot hole and every set-up scene that found its way to the cutting room floor, there's a Will Ferrell moment to fill the gap with the considerable talents he's come to be known for.

And can that be bad? Sure, we're living in a Hollywood with directly stolen ideas in nearly every "new" film, but if the redeeming quality is "Humor", might this be medicine for the soul? Sure! But not the brain, so the very funny Kicking & Screaming gets Three Stars out of Five! You can't get a goal every time you get the ball, but, hey, this one does okay. So until they remake The Sandlot with special guest "actor" Sammy Sosa and the new title of That's a Lot of Sand, I'll see you in the next reel!

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Kicking & Screaming (2005) reviewed by J.C. Maçek III who is solely responsible for his views and for the fact that he was picked last for soccer... and for journalism.
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