Kicking and Screaming
This movie struggles to find its jokes. They're not in the script, and Will Ferrell isn't allowed off his directorial leash to find any on his own.
Imagine you are the director of a porn film. Your lead actor is known for being able to stand in a room and ejaculate onto the ceiling. Being a complete idiot, you decide it would be a fabulous idea to put a clothespin on the shaft of his unit, entirely constricting the blood flow to said unit and ultimately denying audiences precisely what it is they came to see.
I relate this somewhat unsavory story to illustrate what seems to be the relationship between director Jesse Dylan and actor Will Ferrell. Ferrell hits this picture's comedic ceiling quite quickly as the Dylan forces him to play his role with undue seriousness.
Phil Weston (Ferrell) is the unaccomplished son of Buck Weston (Robert Duvall). As far as Phil can tell, he isn't much in his father's eyes, so when the opportunity to coach pee wee soccer comes around, Phil jumps at the opportunity, taking control of a team of loser kids while his father continues to coach to league champions. The opportunity comes about when Buck trades Phil's son Sam (Dylan McLaughlin) to the loser team. Buck also has a son the same age named Bucky (Josh Hutcherson). Buck is one of those guys, like Michael Douglas, who has married a woman way too unwrinkled for him.
This movie struggles to find its jokes. They're not in the script, and Will Ferrell isn't allowed off his directorial leash to find any on his own. Ferrell appears semi-serious in the role: not quite his "Melinda, Melinda" persona, but nothing like his "Elf" role either. He's just under-the-top enough to be boring. For comedy, the film resorts to Mike Ditka playing himself. Mike Ditka becomes Phil's assistant. On a positive note, I can say that Mike is reasonably convincing playing himself.
The film's other big joke has to do with coffee. Phil starts drinking coffee, which gets him all wired and then he starts going overboard in his zeal for his team to win. Having observed more than one overzealous kids' sports coach, I can tell you that they hardly need any stimulants to make them obnoxious. Most of those people are, like Buck, just assholes. I've seen coaches and parents unwittingly traumatize eight-year-old children for life over a loss in an soccer game. Clearly, truth is stranger than fiction when it comes to kids' sports, and "Kicking and Screaming" seems from the very beginning like it'd be a hell of a lot funnier if it were a documentary.
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