I will begin this review by fully disclosing my bias. I think Will Ferrell is very funny. Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers were all very funny films, in my opinion. A ton of people out there would disagree with me, for sure, but a good number also enjoy Mr. Ferrell’s brand of humor. So, with that being said…
I still didn’t really like Kicking & Screaming, a soccer film Ferrell released in 2005. Did it make me laugh? Sure, at times. But overall, it felt like one of those movies where they just kind of flesh out an idea and then count on Ferrell to be able to improv his way to a $100,000,000 box office. It didn’t happen this time.
Here’s the synopsis:
Phil (Ferrell) has always been tormented by his his lack of athletic ability and his father Buck’s (Robert Duvall) overcompetitive nature . Phil has a son, Sam, who seems as hapless at sports as his father. Buck, who is rich and has remarried, also has a son, Bucky Jr., who is the same age as Sam.
Buck is Bucky Jr.’s and Sam’s soccer coach, but when Sam underperforms, he trades him to the Tigers, the worst team in the league. Outraged that his father would trade Sam, Phil begins coaching the Tigers to prove his father wrong. Phil is ridiculously insufficient as a manager. He clearly knows nothing about the game. So, he recruits Mike Ditka (yes, the Mike Ditka) to serve as his assistant coach. Ditka only agrees to help because he is Buck’s neighbor and the two share a mutual hatred for one another.
While Ditka’s coaching acumen helps, what really puts the Tigers over the top is the two Italian boys they recruit from a local butcher shop. With the Italians dominating opponents, the Tigers manage to qualify for the championship against Buck and Bucky Jr.’s team. (Sure, it reinforces the stereotype that Italians are really good at soccer, but then again, it’s not exactly a false assumption).
Of course, Ferrell miserably fails as a coach and a father along the way as he begins to imitate the hyper-competitive behavior of his own father and refusing Sam playing time. He also develops a nasty caffeine addiction and a dictator-like approach to training, which ultimately leads to Ditka resigning his assistant coaching position.
Ferrell predictably makes up with his son prior to the big game, and the Tigers go on to win it on a last second goal by Sam (who jukes Bucky Jr. to score, just for good measure). Phil learns a valuable lesson about fatherhood, as does Buck, who finally seems to overcome his own irrational disappointment in Phil. Blah, blah, blah.
What did I enjoy about this film?
Believe it or not, I loved me some Ditka. When he continually refers to the asian player as “Bing-Bong”, I simultaneously cringe and burst into laughter. Da Coach was actually pretty darn good, but I guess he was playing himself, so it would have been difficult to bomb. Overall, he and Duvall had some hilarious chemistry as grumpy old neighbors who do not get along. I smell a sitcom.
Ferrell wasn’t bad either, he just wasn’t as funny as he normally is though. It’s hard to carry a movie about kid’s soccer (ask Mr. Dangerfield), and Ferrell wasn’t armed with the most humorous content. Overall, Kicking & Screaming is a pretty funny film and not a complete waste of your time.
I would recommend it over other Ditka’s other forays into film, though that’s not saying much.