Kicking & Screaming

Cast:
Will Ferrell as Phil Weston
Robert Duvall as Buck Weston
Mike Ditka as Mike Ditka
Kate Walsh as Barbara Weston
Musetta Vander as Janice Weston
Dylan McLaughlin as Sam Weston
Josh Hutcherson as Bucky Weston
Steven Anthony Lawrence as Mark Avery
Jeremy Bergman as Hunter
Elliott Cho as Byong Sun
Erik Walker as Ambrose
Dallas McKinney as Connor
Francesco Liotti as Gian Piero
Alessandro Ruggiero as Massimo
Sammy Fine as Jack

Summary:
Kicking & Screaming is a fun movie that has something to offer for both kids and adults. Will Ferrell and Mike Dikta deliver a lot of laughs. If you liked Elf, this movie should be right up your alley.

Story:
Phil Weston is a quiet, nice, reserved man. But underneath his friendly exterior is a lot of frustration and angst caused by his ultra-competitive, domineering father Buck. The owner of a prominent sporting goods store, Buck constantly puts down Phil and feels the need to top him in everything (including having children with a new, younger wife).

This dysfunctional father-son relationship carries over onto the soccer field as Buck coaches his son and grandson’s team. Unfortunately, Buck frequently benches his grandson Sam and eventually even trades him to the worst soccer team in the league, the Tigers.

Eager to encourage his son, Phil agrees to coach the Tigers. Unfortunately, the kids are a bit unfocused and Phil isn’t aggressive enough to whip them into shape. Matters are made worse when Buck starts making fun of Phil and the Tigers. But things turn around when Phil brings in a little help – Buck’s next door neighbor and nemesis Mike Ditka. Ditka helps turn the Tigers around, but when Phil gets a taste of victory he goes off the deep end. Will Phil figure out what’s important before he alienates his own son?

Kicking & Screaming is rated PG for thematic elements, language and some crude humor.

What Worked:
If you liked Elf then you’re probably going to like Kicking & Screaming. The films are very similar in spirit. Both have a lovable, naïve buffoon as the lead. Both are family friendly. Both films have a lot of off the wall humor. While Elf may have been a little better, they both are going to appeal to the same audiences. Kicking & Screaming is essentially The Bad News Bears with Will Ferrell.

Will Ferrell again steals the show as Phil Weston. Like in Elf, he shows an innocent, wacky, off the wall sense of humor that ends up saving pretty much every scene in the film. It’s also quite easy to tell when he’s adlibbing and it ends up making the movie even funnier. He has some great bits here and there in the movie that you’ll remember long after the film is over. There’s a running gag about him getting hooked on coffee that goes to extremes. There’s also a hilarious scene where he attempts to bond with his team at a backyard campout. One scene that really cracked me up was when the team had to help out their star players at a butcher shop, then they showed up for a soccer match covered in blood. It sounds gross, but it was hilarious.

Another surprise of the movie was Mike Ditka playing himself. He did a really good job in the role and occasionally even upstaged Ferrell. His tough attitude was a great contrast to Phil Weston, yet he allowed himself to be made fun of. An ongoing battle with his wife over cigar smoking in the house was pretty funny, too. You also have Robert Duvall as Buck Weston. Duvall was a great choice because you buy him as either a hard-nosed jock or a loving father and grandfather. His merciless hounding of Phil was quite amusing. The kids in the film also all have moments to shine, but Elliott Cho as Byong Sun is one of the most notable. From his trick with a drinking cup to being the “shy” one of the bunch, he gets some of the biggest laughs among the kids.

The editing in the film was well done. The story unfolds at a frantic pace and quick transitions from one joke to the next helps keep things rolling. The music was also a fun collection of pop songs including (you guessed it) The Eye of the Tiger.

What Didn’t Work:
I had no real problems with this movie. If I had to mention anything it would be that they used the “shaky camera” too much. In some of the most mundane scenes the camera would be moving and shaking as if it were NYPD Blue. It was overkill.

The overall plot of the film was also predictable, but that was forgivable. Enough bizarre things happen along the way that you forget you know the ending before the film even begins. It’s the trip getting there that is entertaining.

I’ll also mention that I took a 3 ½ year old and a 6 year old to this movie. The older one sat still and loved it, but the younger one couldn’t sit still for more than a minute, especially during the slow moments. I think this is a good family film, but I think kindergarten age is the cutoff point (at least based on my experience).

The Bottom Line:
If you’re a fan of Will Ferrell then you’ll definitely want to check out Kicking & Screaming. It’s also safe enough that you can take the whole family and everybody can find something to enjoy in it.

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