Will Ferrell's "Kicking & Screaming" Problematic, Overacted
- 2005 13 May
Release Date: May 13, 2005
Rating: PG (for thematic elements, language and some crude humor)
Run Time: 95 min.
Director: Jesse Dylon
Actors: Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Mike Ditka, Kate Walsh, Dylan McLaughlin, Josh Hutcherson
Am I the only person annoyed by Will Ferrell? I mean, I know the guy’s famous and all, but is it too much to ask for him not to make so many completely stupid movies? In fact, is it too much to ask of Hollywood in general?
In another astoundingly original plot, we meet super-loser Phil Weston (Ferrell), a vitamin salesman who has lived life in the shadow of his domineering father, Buck (Robert Duvall). While Phil can barely even hit a fly with a flyswatter – much less a ball of any kind – Buck, who now owns a sporting goods store, has spent his life around athletics. In fact, Buck coaches his son’s little league soccer team. And by “son,” I do not mean Phil. I mean Buck’s second son (Josh Hutcherson), from his second marriage to a young hottie he met at the A&P. Also on the team is Buck’s grandson (Dylan McLaughlin), Phil’s son. But the two boys are as different as Phil and Buck. Buck’s son leads the top-ranked Gladiators in goals, whereas Phil’s son stays on the bench – courtesy of his grandfather, who is determined to win, at all cost.
When Buck trades his grandson to the bottom-ranked Tigers, Phil steps in as coach, pitting himself against his dad. Phil then enlists the help of Buck’s nemesis and neighbor, Mike Ditka (the one and only), former coach of the Chicago Bears, who despises Buck and will do anything to humiliate him.
I’m sure you can guess the rest of the story. In fact, if you’re over 30, you’ve seen it before. It’s called “The Bad News Bears” and it’s coming out again this summer. Not this film, but the real one. And we can only hope it will be better than this slapstick counterfeit. Suffice to say that the Tigers make it to the championship where they learn that “winning isn’t everything” but still (ohhh! spoiler ahead) take home the title.
There are a lot of problems with this movie, which probably won’t keep kids away, given the mostly-appropriate content. For one, it has an awful script with no originality, a terrible message (which is not the one above) and lots of overacting. Second, it’s not a kid’s movie. What’s that, you say? But it’s PG! It’s a “Bad News Bears” remake! It’s Will Ferrell, coaching a bunch of kids! All well and true, but when you’ve got no depth at all to any of the kid’s characters, and all together, they have less than a dozen lines, who else but adults could the story be for? In fact, the action revolves around Ferrell’s emotional issues, which are played out through his petty rivalry with his father. But even that isn’t handled with anything more than superficial silliness, all highlighted by Ferrell’s “I’m so dumb” acting.
Here’s what we’re supposed to believe: that Phil, who can’t jump more than 3 inches in the long jump, is on the college track team; that he’s “in college,” when he looks like he’s fast approaching the AARP; that he’s never had coffee in his entire life, doesn’t know how to order coffee in a coffee bar, and is completely unaware of the side effects of caffeine; that giving a bunch of ‘tweener boys birds (finches), without asking their parents, is a great idea; that carrying a soccer ball on your back for the entire length of the field, to score a goal, does not constitute a major game penalty; and that kids who have never received one single lesson in soccer (despite Ditka’s superfluous presence) are capable of (oohh! spoiler ahead!) winning the finals. Dude! I’m falling down laughing!
Okay, maybe if you’re 9 years old, like the kid sitting next to me at the screening. But even he got the “wrong” message from the film – or wait, maybe it was the right one? When I asked him afterwards what he thought the moral of the film was, he said, “Do the opposite of what the coach says!” Good boy! Because that’s exactly what the film teaches. See Phil, who gets addicted to coffee (caffeine), becomes just like his old dad. Although he’s a goody-two-shoes in the beginning, Phil ultimately resorts to underhanded tactics and unsportsmanlike behavior, in the almighty goal of winning the match. But then, just before the end, he realizes he’s been wrong. So his message to the kids: “Forget everything I’ve told you! Do the exact opposite, okay?” And yay, they win! But remember, winning isn’t everything!
First of all, why does winning always have to be portrayed in such a bad light in children’s movies? Do the winners always have to be, mwah-ha-ha!, Satan incarnate? Yes, I want my children to behave admirably on the field, playing honorably and doing their best. No, I do not want crazed “soccer dads” ruining the game for the rest of us. But do we have to throw the cooler out with the Gatorade (lots of placement ads for this, by the way)? I mean, is winning, in and of itself, really that evil in children’s sports? And should every kid – no matter how unskilled or unmotivated – have equal play time, no matter what? And is little league soccer the ACLU’s next judicial terrain?
If all you’re looking for is a film without objectionable content that you can take your kid to see, and you don’t care a whit about the message, this is it (with a few completely gratuitous exceptions). Otherwise, I’d run kicking and screaming out of this one.
- Drugs/Alcohol Content: Several scenes in bars with people drinking; man smokes cigar; coffee that is treated as if it’s a drug.
- Language/Profanity: Three mild obscenities (“hell”).
- Sexual Content/Nudity: Several jokes about father’s sporting goods store, in the form of television commercials where people say, “I’ve (or he’s) got balls!”; ongoing joke about lesbian couple, with main character unsure about how to address the situation, but then praising them for what good parents they are.
- Violence: Wife slaps husband; ball hits man in face, body and groin several times; bad joke about “eating” a kid; and kiddie-style soccer violence throughout.