Kicking and Screaming Review
That ever dependable conceit of over-ambitious father’s emphasising their own failings in placing competitive pressure on their kids is a theme well-told. Yet nevertheless it’s not without its virtue. Certainly Kicking and Screaming has an underlying context that rears a rather unoriginal head, but it draws its plaudits in the fact that here we see Hollywood do soccer and that’s something definitely worth taking a look at. This is an American sports movie that forgets about the bone-crunching tackles of their version of football, and the painstaking perfection of baseball, allowing their heritage to take a back seat in favour of Europe’s most appealing sporting attraction. But don’t let that fool you. This is a Hollywood movie through and through - championing common family values, pride, and the nice guy rising to the top. But forget about the sports movie clichés for a second and contemplate Will Ferrell in one of his most likable and funny roles to date. You’ll see you’ve got a film that basically wants to make you smile and warm you up on a cold winter’s night.
Phil Weston (Will Ferrell) has always been under the thumb of his loud-mouthed, overly competitive father Buck (Robert Duvall) but when the opportunity arises to coach the rival football team, Phil takes to the task of beating his father at his own game. There’s a problem though; Phil’s inherited the team that is rock-bottom of the league and made up of kids who aren’t exactly the cream of the crop. However, with a lot of coffee and the introduction of the two Italian’s from the butchers’, Phil might be able to pull it off.
Kicking and Screaming works well despite Ferrell toning down the risqué, offbeat persona that saw him make Anchorman such a pleasure. He plays a likeable Dad who is coloured with a sense of pride in the face of his father’s parental pressure. He’s like a frightened rabbit seeking solace in the only thing he knows he can do better than him, that being a good, dignified and compassionate Dad. Robert Duvall as Ferrell’s over-ambitious father plays every putdown with a smile lacking the knowledge of how hurtful his straightforward competitiveness can be. It’s an often funny but very enticing sub-plot that is a welcome addition to the type of movie that is usually left wanting.
Ferrell’s deadpan humour is a superb opposite to the children’s wide-eyed innocence, and even more so with the parents, especially when he meets a lesbian couple whose son plays for the team. Director Jesse Dylan rightly keeps the focus on Ferrell and the running joke regarding Weston’s over-indulgence with coffee (the scene when he drinks various latte shots emphasising the fact this is a family film) is greatly amusing. There’s a hilarious scene in a coffee shop when the jittering comedian (his facial ticks and anxious demeanour like a drug user desperately wanting another hit) makes fun of a lady who can’t decide what she wants. She turns around and says ‘zip it sporty spice!’ (certainly in reference to his awful shell suit) and grabs his neck like a little old lady turning the tables on a hefty mugger. It’s the perfect set-up for Ferrell’s brand of comedy to blossom and the film is full of terrific one-liners (‘I’m angry! I’m spitting angry! I’m like a tornado of anger, swirling about!’) that he delivers with such perfect timing.
The film is an enjoyable sports movie that isn’t hindered by the clichés. Dylan places the actual football scenes mainly as background material to the comedy and the characters. Yet he handles the sport with a sure hand and the notion that the real talent for the game still lies in Europe is an example of the filmmaker’s recognition of the game, as well as good inspiration to push more American children into the sport. Despite some stylistic flourishes that don’t particularly work (Dylan’s use of handheld photography providing an unneeded grittiness), Kicking and Screaming is a funny, warm and terrifically entertaining family comedy that sees Will Ferrell at his deadpan best.
The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and anamorphic enhanced. Universal provide a lovely looking image quality with Kicking and Screaming as colours are vibrant and strong – the sun-kissed setting and warm summer ambience being beautifully portrayed on the DVD. The image is sharp and detailed with no noticeable problems with either the authoring or the print.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is strong at times, average at others. Given this dialogue-based comedy wouldn’t gain much from a powerful audio presentation it does however sound particularly good during the football games with the surrounds aiding the action. But dialogue is fairly central and the rest of the track is rather uninspired.
There are plenty of additional features added to the movie which are slightly more interesting than the usual EPK-style promo and back-patting stuff. One thing to note however, there are no audio commentaries present on the disc. 11 minutes of deleted scenes and 5 minutes of alternate takes are presented without commentary from the director that would have made them more interesting, but it seems pretty obvious why they were cut. Many are simply not funny, others extraneous exposition. Still there are some hidden gems of Ferrell in deadpan mode which is worth seeing. The 8 minutes of Outtakes stretch for far too long as most of the material could have been cut because it just isn’t funny, but again there are some little comic snippets that are well-worth seeing. The featurette From Rome To Hollywood looks at how the two Italian kids were cast, and how they trained for the film, focusing on the work of the football choreographers. It is interesting as it acts like a production diary for these two young actors with their experience of working on a Hollywood film for the first time. Kickin’ it with the Kids is a 3 minute selection of interviews with the child actors and emphasises just how mind-numbingly annoying they can be. Soccer Camp looks at the training all the children had to go through before the film started shooting. The most interesting thing about it is seeing Robert Duvall trying to pick up the ‘soccer’ lingo. The 12 minute making-of Behind The Net repeats some of what has already been seen but it is a tidily edited look behind the scenes of the movie.
Kicking and Screaming is one of Will Ferrell’s less distinct movies but that doesn’t stop him portraying one of his most likeable characters. The film certainly wouldn’t be as good without him and again he provides a wonderful deadpan comic style that works superbly well, especially when confronted by pesky kids and a over-ambitious father. The DVD has plenty of additional material and superb image quality but it lacks any commentaries.
Last updated: 23/06/2018 22:40:23