Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
|Featuring:||Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Kate Walsh, Mike Ditka, Musetta Vander|
|Producer:||Jimmy Miller, Charles Roven|
All his life Phil Weston has dreamed of being on a winning team. Phil… your time has come.
I have played on teams coached by both types of men portrayed in “Kicking and Screaming”; men like Buck Weston (Robert Duvall) who will do whatever it takes to win, and demand nothing short of greatness from their players. Then there are the other coaches, the ones like Phil Weston (Will Ferrell) who don’t know a whole lot about the sport and seem to have inherited the job from a pre-game raffle. The problem with the coaches who fall into the latter category is that once they get lucky enough to notch a few wins under their belts, they feel invincible and develop an arrogance worse than the coaches to whom winning is a way of life.
Phil Weston was always one of those guys who sat the benches during his sports days. That is normal for a lot of kids I suppose, but the only thing different about him was the fact that it was his father Buck who put him there. You see, Buck is a coaching legend in the town, and since his son Phil isn’t ever going to be remotely described as athletic, he let Phil sit the bench during his soccer seasons. One flash back shows little Phil on the bench, asking his father if he can at least go in and play for a minute during the championship game. Buck says the game is far too important to let Phil play, but promises, “I’ll play you next year.”
Phil is grown up now, and his son Sam, starts the film playing on Buck’s soccer team, the Gladiators. Unfortunately for Sam, he has inherited Phil’s not so athletic genes, and rides the bench, just like Phil did. Buck doesn’t really want his grandson to be a benchwarmer, so instead of actually letting him play for the undefeated Gladiators, Buck trades his grandson to the Tigers, the worst team in the league.
This naturally infuriates Phil, and when the Tigers coach disappears after their first loss, Phil is pushed into the role of coach. He is in way over his head, with kids who appear to be as “athletic” as Phil was back in the day. But, Phil is determined to show his dad that he can make the Tigers a winning team, and enlists the help of Buck’s neighbor (and mortal enemy) Hall of Fame football coach Mike Ditka.
Ditka brings his own coaching style to the team and whips them into shape faster than Phil could ever have dreamed. After all the rigorous training the kids endure, they still aren’t winning. So, the two coaches go out and recruit a pair of Italian brothers who don’t speak English, but are amazing on the field and begin teaching their tricks to the other kids. With the Italians whipping the opponents on their own for the most part, it sets up the inevitable battle between father and son, soccer coaching legend versus a sports nobody, for the championship.
The content of the PG rated “Kicking and Screaming” is probably normal for the genre. There isn’t much language, with a few uses of the word “hell.” In a fit of rage, Ditka tells Phil to “Go to Hell” with the players and their parents listening. There are also a couple of crude references (Buck is a sporting goods store owner, and his slogan for himself is “He’s got Balls”). Some parents may be concerned about the presence of a lesbian couple whose son plays on the team. The film doesn’t promote anything per say, but I know there are parents who probably don’t want to expose their children to that, which is why I am mentioning it here.
The cocky attitude displayed by Phil once the Tigers start winning may also be of concern to some parents. Phil becomes outright mean, calling kids “fart faces,” “losers,” and even running out onto the field and knocking a child over from the other team. The film would probably be more appropriate for older children, but I would advise parents to watch it themselves first before letting kids under 10 see it.
In the end, “Kicking and Screaming” is a lot like all the other movies about kids and sports, although there are some neat soccer sequences. Now, I don’t know if the scenes were authentic (plus, soccer is the only sport I never really got into, so I wouldn’t be able to tell if the scenes were real or not), but the ones featuring the two young Italian boys were extremely impressive.
I suppose what separates this from other films of the genre is the performances of Will Ferrell and Mike Ditka. I guess how strongly you like this film will depend on your opinion of Ferrell, because he is up to more of his usual stuff here. And normally I am not a big fan of using star cameos in films, because it often indicates a weak story that needs the boost only a star playing themselves bring. But Mike Ditka is great as the neighbor who will do anything to get under the skin of Buck, the neighbor he says he has hated “even before we meet.”
If parents are at all fans of Will Ferrell, and tired of the very kiddy G and PG fare that comes along, “Kicking and Screaming” is a fairly pleasant, and thankfully fairly clean, experience.
See list of Relevant Issues.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Minor / Sex/nudity: Minor