Kicking & Screaming
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Kicking & Screaming

Not every film released can hope to become a classic, the kind of movie used as the touchstone for those that follow. Still, such a film can succeed in the primary purpose of a film, to entertain. One such film is Kicking & Screaming. It is silly, puerile slapstick humor but that is okay, it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy a film that permits the audience to disengage the brain, stop worrying about the daily hassles and forget the work for an hour and a half. There was no high-brow humor here, but it did let that twelve-year-old boy inside out for awhile to laugh. Naturally, the premise is simplistic; Phil Weston (Will Ferrell) is a likable kind of guy, a vitamin salesman, father, husband and all-around friendly neighbor. The thing is Phil has always lived in the overwhelming shadow of his dominating father, Buck Weston (Robert Duvall). For Buck there is only one thing that is important in life, winning, nothing else matters at all. He carries this almost draconian view of the world into his coaching of a kidís soccer team, the Gladiators. So great is Buckís determination to win he trades his grandson, Philís son Sam (Dylan McLaughlin) to one of the league's lowest placed teams, the Tigers. It is little surprise that Buck does keep his ten-year-old son (Philís half brother) Bucky (Josh Hutcherson) who since he is close in temperament to Buck than Phil is the favorite. Phil is outraged at how his father has treated his son and in the act of rebellion offers to coach the Tigers. To move the belabored team up in the standings, he recruits a couple of boys from the neighborhood and gets Mike Ditka to help set the team straight. Ditka is a neighbor of Buck and has little affection for him and is more than glad to do anything to put the pompous Buck down a notch or two. Phil gets so into beating his father that he starts to become what he hates the most, Buck. This is fueled when Ditka introduces Phil to the wonderful world of coffee; it makes the meek Phil into a wild, careening bumbler permitting the antics actually to get started. Philís wife Barbara wife (Kate Walsh) and Sam notice how this competition with his father is getting out of hand and are finally are forced to intervene.

There is a right amount of subtext for a pure comedy such as this. First, there is the age old father-son rivalry, the son never able to live up to his fatherís high expectations. Then there is the more modern dilemma of the second family. For a man in his thirties to be replaced in his fatherís eyes by a ten-year-old is humiliating watching version 2.0 take your place. With all the people acting like idiots it falls on the female lead, Barbara to be the sole voice of reason pulling her husband back to the sweet man she married. Sure, we all heard most of these jokes before; can anyone remember the Bad News Bears? Still, the delivery places this flick above most of its peers. The cast manages to create an energy that will pull the audience in if only for a little escapism. There is no use in over analyzing this flick; you should just enjoy it for the light entertainment it offers.

Will Ferrell started out in the public eye like many comedians, on NBCs long-running training ground, Saturday Night Live. While many cast members of this show have tried to go on to feature films a large number have failed. The reason for this appears to be they depend too much on expanding the recurring characters from SNL to the movies. Sure, Mike Myers may be the exception but usually, what works for a five-minute skit fails when stretched to ninety minutes. Ferrell was always the go-to guy on Saturday Night Live, the man that could take on many personas. When you look at Ferrellís film career his seemed to have stealth mode to it; he is one of the top box offices draws around, up there with the A-list stars like Cruise and Pitt. The main reason for this, as far as I can see, is Farrell gives the audience what they need the most, laughs, good old fashion laughs. He now can work with some of all time greats in the film as evidenced here starring opposite Robert Duvall. Duvall is no stranger to the high authoritative figure. He commands the screen like few actors can and here he plays that innate mean streak into laughs. Many players can succeed in drama, but it takes real talent to move to silly comedy and still do so with flair. Kate Walsh is well cast as the wife and mother. She is cute and bubbly but not to the point of being over the top. Her character seems to love her family and understands just what her father-in-law has done to her husband over the years. The kids do what they were hired to do, be cute. Collectively they stir things up, make the adults look silly and create mischievous situations. Unfortunately, there is not enough to give any individual personalities to them.

This is director Jesse Dylan third major film. His other two flicks, ĎHow Highí and the last of the American Pie films, ĎAmerican Wedding,' here more are sexually oriented than this one. Itís good to see a director that is actually towards more family oriented films that the whole family can enjoy together. Dylan paces the film well, allowing some time between gags to let the audience gather themselves. The overall feel of the flick is a lot like a sketch comedy show loosely tied together with the soccer premise. A little trivia here, Jesse Dylan is the son of the famous sixties folk singer Bob Dylan, talk about taking a path different from your father. Itís easy to see that Dylan can relate in some ways to the plight of Phil.

Universal did an excellent job of bringing this film to DVD. Sure, every studio gives its all to the major blockbuster, but to their credit, Universal treats almost every release with precision. They do offer the film in both Pan & Scan and widescreen formats, go with the original aspect ratio. The 2.35:1 anamorphic video is clean, well balanced and provides natural coloration and shading. The Dolby 5.1 audio is robust with a better than average dynamic range. The rear speakers mostly used for ambiance but in all the mix works well. The extras are fun to watch and presented with a bit of imagination. All tied to the soccer theme. The Red Cards, penalties, are the deleted scenes, the Yellow Cards, warnings show the bloopers. There are also some alternate scenes that were winning but pretty much run of the mill. The featurette Kicking It with the Kids goes into what it takes to work with a gang of kids on a film. Behind The Net offers, the almost mandatory behind the scenes look at production. Bottom line here the film is fun to watch, it will not be announced in any award show, but it will entertain you. Forget the troubles of the day, order a pizza, sit back wth your family and have some fun.

 

Posted 10/12/05            06/28/2017

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