U.S. Release Date: May 13, 2005
Distributor: Universal
Producer: Judd Apatow (executive), Daniel Lupi (executive), Charles Roven
Composer: Mark Isham
Cast: Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Josh Hutcherson
Running Time: 1 hour and 36 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (thematic elements, language and some crude humor)

Kid Soccer Pic's All Shtick
by Scott Holleran

Anyone who has coached, parented or been a kid in sports will probably find something funny in the crude, physical comedy of Kicking and Screaming, but that's the best Will Ferrell's latest vehicle will net. Robert Duvall goes slumming as Ferrell's father, a geezer who's basically Mr. Duvall's Great Santini Marine grown old, while the usual assortment of outrageous half-characters round out the cast.

The shtick—and that's what to call this material—takes place in a kids' soccer league, with Ferrell's benchwarming son (thoroughly enjoyable Dylan McLaughlin) getting traded by Mr. Duvall's hardbody Coach Grandpa early in the action. Ferrell, who had been benched by his father when he played ball as a child, feels sorry for his son and attempts to step in as coach of his son's team. It's ostensibly father and son versus grandfather—in a 21st century twist that works—and his son.

Ferrell, doing his regular routine, shows up for practice and the typical band of losers awaits his clueless coaching. This premise worked in The Bad News Bears with Walter Matthau and Vic Morrow, and it hasn't been very funny since. Kicking and Screaming doesn't kick up much of a fuss either way, yielding more of the same silly line readings and sight gags. Ferrell tries touchy-feely jargon to get the boys into shape and, when that goes out of bounds, he enlists the aid of Mr. Duvall's rival next-door neighbor, Mike Ditka (the ex-pro football coach) playing himself. Ditka is fine as a henpecked husband who lends a hand in the harmless pap.

Ditka starts by recruiting a couple of Italian kids who really know how to play—and their five seconds of kick play is about all the soccer that's here to be had, sports fans—and the sports clichés roll right in from there. Newly confident Ferrell, pumped by unrelated jokes about everything from coffee to camping, bets his dad that his son's team will be champions—there's a Pele ball involved—and Ferrell starts playing the kids dirty, becoming, of course, just like his dad. You can practically clock the comeuppance.

Some bits are a hoot, especially Ferrell's coach at his most obnoxious around a campfire, though none have much to do with plotting and few funnies last longer than an instant. A buck-toothed kid (Steven Anthony Lawrence) steals a few scenes, and so does Elliott Cho as a twerp who has two mommies. Still, the kids, who are thankfully not a bunch of brats, deserved more screen time.

Kicking and Screaming, like most of these garden variety Saturday Night Live-type skit pictures, from Coneheads to whatever they cranked out last week, are extended gag reels, which is bound to score with those who go for this sort of thing.

Sweet and Absurd
Cheaper by the Dozen
Twelve Angry Kids
School of Rock
Rock and Roll Detention
A Rubber Ball
Stranger Than Fiction
'What If?' Movie Is Nonsense
A Surreal Christmas Story