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Kicking and Screaming brings some laughs, but ultimately, this “family” comedy may leave you kicking and screaming for your money back.

Swinging and Missing

Ferrell earns the occasional laugh
Ferrell earns the occasional laugh

When you pair up raunchy comic artists like actor Will Ferrell (Old School, Anchorman) and director Jesse Dylan (How High, American Wedding) for a family-fun comedy, one would think something subversive might emerge. But unfortunately, the film relies on toilet humor and crotch-kicking jokes, leaving us wondering where Ferrell and Dylan’s creativity vanished to.

We all know that Ferrell can be funny; this has been proven multiple times. So the finger has to be pointed at the writers, who seem to have written this over the weekend. The two to blame are Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick, who, with their dual efforts, have brought us some truly profound classics like The Santa Clause and Space Jam. The screenplay they cooked up, blatantly offensive to screenwriters everywhere, uses words like “balls” and “poop” as funny, stimulating dialogue.

The only comedy that we are provided with is continuous slapstick silliness, which after so much of it, can prove to be entertaining at times. Ferrell’s brilliance is the only thing saving this from being a complete disaster, as he creates a character whose antics made me giggle from time to time and had the children in the audience roaring. A kick in the balls may be a dumb thing to watch, but Ferrell’s unbridled character earns the occasional laugh.

Natural Born Losers

“I was born a baby.” These are the first words uttered from Ferrell, who is Phil Weston, a vitamin store owner who has been completely unsuccessful with sports all his life. Robert Duvall plays his father Buck, a real competitive bastard that constantly beats his son at everything. Buck coaches Phil’s son (Dylan McLaughlin) in little league soccer, but leaves him on the beach, eventually trading him (for no other reason than to be a jerk) to a different team, the Tigers. Not wanting his son to follow in his fumbling footsteps, Phil takes it upon himself to coach the team.

As expected, the Tigers are a multi-sized and multi-raced team who have no real understanding of the game. The predictable direction of the film would be that Phil eventually discovers the different talents each player has and combines them to win games. Instead, he finds that none of them really know what they’re doing, so he recruits two Italian boys from a local butcher shop who can really bend it like Beckham. He also gets help from Buck’s neighbor, Mike Ditka (playing himself), to be the assistant coach. With all this help, the Tigers finally start winning games.

Phil gets so obsessed with winning that he starts benching his own son so the Italians can get more playing time. He also starts taunting the kids on the other team and promotes poor sportsmanship in the worst kinds of ways. He becomes so fanatical that he is more of a liability to his team than an asset. When Phil’s unrealistic craze for victory turns ridiculous, his wife Barbara (Kate Walsh) confronts him and eventually leaves; I don’t know which is less believable: that a father would become so obsessed with winning that it would make his wife walk out on him, or that his wife walking out on him wouldn’t make him snap out of it.

The Tigers make it to the playoffs, and eventually to the championship, where they face Buck’s team. All of the expected politically correct messages vanish while the moral of the story is ultimately to play unfair and kick and scream if you lose.

But Seriously, Folks

The most irritating trend in the film is that all of the adult characters act like children. Especially Ferrell, who frolics around in absurd child-like hysterics most the time. Supposedly, the mere concept of a grown man acting like a baby is funny. Most of the laughs come when Ditka enters the picture, but his presence is funnier than his lines.

The filmmaking errors are too obvious to ignore. Many continuity mistakes and poorly edited scenes take away from the magic, while Dylan’s direction of his child actors is half-assed. Goalies dive in the opposite direction of where the ball is going, kids look directly into the camera, and players on the field over-dramatize or overact their parts. Maybe this is Dylan trying to be cute, but it doesn’t work.

But all these mistakes are most likely overlooked by viewers. This isn’t a film that is supposed to be groundbreaking or revolutionary; it’s supposed to make us laugh. And at that, it almost succeeds. While I only chuckled a few times, many of the children were laughing maniacally at Ferrell. Although, in the midst of the comedy, some of the jokes were so incredibly lame and dull, even the children sat in awkward silence.

This is a film that kids can enjoy, with it’s unoriginal sophomoric gags and goofy characters, but don’t bet on it entertaining the whole family.