Family man Phil Weston, a lifelong victim of his father's competitive nature, takes on the coaching duties of a kids' soccer team, and soon finds that he's also taking on his father's dysfunctional way of relating.
Phil Weston is a goodhearted loser who suffered throughout his childhood due to his competitive overbearing sports coach father, and this has resulted in him inheriting that same attitude, which affects his relationship with his less-than athletic son. When he becomes coach of his son's soccer team, with a poor track record in terms of winning, he strives to beat a rival team, coached by none other than his father.Written by
"Kicking and Screaming" concerns two brazenly childish parents who learn that Winning Isn't Everything. That another movie about grown men revisiting wounds of their youth through age group sports is upon us is quite sad in its own right. That "Kicking and Screaming" goes for laughs with ethnic jokes at the expense of children is just ugly. The shopworn proceedings are meant to be freshened by the antics of Will Ferrell (who's just started to be on a roll) and the hoary support of Robert Duvall and Mike Ditka. Yes, that Mike Ditka. But this is still a movie about cute kids and life lessons.
Phil Weston (Ferrell) has had to deal with his uber-competitive father (Duvall) all his life. When Phil announces his engagement, dad announces his own to a much younger woman. Family rivalry runs so deep that, when both men have sons born on the same day, dad takes great pleasure in pointing out that his own boy is a few ounces heavier. This seems a considerable effort for a set up Phil has a son and brother the same age, etc. but the film mostly forgets about it. Odd. Being an empowering, sensitive father, it's of course only a matter of time before Phil's inner Lombardi is awakened when he agrees to coach his son's soccer team, to which his son has been traded by grandpa, himself the coach of the best team in the league. This is perhaps the first youth sports league in which players are actually traded, making it ideal for highlighting tropes about Doing Your Best and Just Having Fun.
With the help of neighbor Mike Ditka as assistant coach, and his introduction to coffee, which he's never drunk, Phil indeed becomes a competitive monster. There are a lot of jokes about his growing caffeine addiction, as well as the team's game strategy of always passing to the two soccer prodigy Italian immigrants, whose father lets them play only if they remember the mantra of the family butchery, "meat comes first!" Sadly, "Kicking and Screaming" seems largely stuck in a retarded stage of development in which immigrant caricature and mispronunciation of Asian names (Ditka refers to little Byung Sun as "Bing Bong") pass for laughs. Ferrell is gradually proving himself capable of sustaining films with his manic energy, but here he's too often constrained by the confines of playing a more of less normal guy. By the final game you guess between which teams the filmmakers seem to realize that neither side is worth rooting for, and abruptly force a moral epiphany on Ferrell as if it were a straitjacket.
There's a lot of potential for sharp satire in the culture of sports parents, but its insistence on simplistic moralizing prevents "Kicking and Screaming" from being anything more than a kids' movie. The lessons learned are so juvenile and basic that it seems insulting to be expected to care about adults who have yet to grasp them. Characters this immature aren't worth the time it takes to witness the meager redemptions imposed upon them.
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