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Will Ferrell is something of an enigma. Springing to our screens barely ten years' ago, he has shown that his brand of comedy is one that audiences find particularly entertaining with myriad parts over that decade, ranging from The Anchorman to Old School and Zoolander. But where was he before all this furore kicked up? I suppose it is of little importance now, since his success has secured him countless solid supporting roles in big comedy features. The latest vehicle with him in the lead, however, is a little league football comedy called Kicking & Screaming. Afraid? You should be.

Kicking & Screaming

Film


Phil has always been in competition with his dad. Ever since he was a kid, his dad has tried to push him to excel at sports which he just was not suited at. Even when he reached middle-age and met the love of his life, his dad had to do one better and marry a younger, more attractive woman. As you would expect, they had kids at the same time and even the kids began to find themselves thrown into competition with one another. This all culminates in the two kids being a part of two different little-league football (for those who don't associate the word with a sport that has little interaction between foot and ball) teams, one coached by Phil's dad Buck and the other in desperate need of a coach.

When Phil steps up all hell breaks loose and when it becomes apparent that he knows nothing about coaching or training kids he enlists the help of ex-pro Mike Dikta (as himself) to be his first lieutenant. Dikta recommends getting fresh blood on the team, so they secure two Italian child prodigies whose skills at the sport are unequalled. With these two on the team and every other team member instructed merely to pass to the Italians if they get the ball, the team morphs into a serious contender that rivals even Buck's own team. Now it is down to the games both on and off the pitch to fix or further distance the relationship between father and son.

Headed up by Will Ferrell as Phil and Robert Duvall as Buck, the movie is not short of star power. Doing a reasonable job as neurotic son and antagonistic father, respectively, their chemistry is good and they are ably supported by the drill instructor Mike Dikta. Despite all of this, the only really standout moments tend to involve the two Italian kids tearing up the pitch and making shots that I don’t often see from adult pros. Ferrell tries his best to be funny, in his usual angry manner, but only a few moments (like the coffee addiction he cultivates) will actually gain a reaction from you. What a waste.

Kicking & Screaming
It is difficult to understand exactly what audience this movie is intended for. Adults often enjoy the particular type of humour offered by Ferrell, but will be disappointed by his direction-less rambling performance in this movie and put off by the childish material that it pads out. Kids, on the other hand, are unlikely to find any of his behaviour particularly funny (apart from perhaps a couple of silly facial gestures) and the interaction between the father and son is more often than not going to bore them. Sure the football will entertain child audiences to a certain extent but the scenes are so few and far between that they do not justify their attention.

So, all in all, this latest Ferrell movie is a feeble vehicle for his brand of comedy, with a weak father-son story that we have all seen before in one form or another and too much kids’ material for adults to tolerate but at the same time not enough to keep kids interested. It’s the worst of both worlds.

Video


Kicking & Screaming is presented with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer that looks pretty good. The detail is generally of a high standard, with clarity throughout and little sign of softness. There is negligible grain and no signs of edge enhancement. The colour palette is bright and radiant (particularly when the sun is out) and the luscious greens of the pitches and gardens give the picture a lovely natural feel. The transfer shows no sign of print damage and is generally of a fairly good standard.

Kicking & Screaming

Audio


We get a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well, with the dialogue at the forefront but the soundtrack never far behind. The effects mainly come from the ball sounds (as you might expect) but these sometimes offer up a little directionality. However it is that soundtrack that really keeps the proceedings lively, with almost non-stop tracks throughout amidst a little score work. For a kids' comedy like this it is a fairly decent effort which does not break any records but is nevertheless more than adequate for the requisite enjoyment of the movie.

Extras


First up there are twelve deleted scenes ('The Red Cards'). These are presented with no score, and include more from the childhood bits at the beginning and basically additions to a few of the scenes already in the movie. None of them are stand-out funny and none of them would have enhanced the movie (certainly not enough to make it any good) but the scene where Phil loses it with the kids over his dad’s piercing eyeballs and the black and white ‘war’ scene look quite interesting. Totally twelve minutes of extra footage, if you liked the movie then you are sure to like these—almost every single one of them has Ferrell in it (and a few have more Duvall).

Next we have some outtakes ('The Yellow Cards'), totalling nine minutes. Many of these involve the kids making mistakes (line fluffs and so forth) or Ferrell swearing (often in front of the kids). A couple of the improvisations (like about the wild parrot) are quite funny, particularly when Ferrell makes the others laugh unintentionally (I wish he could have done more of that during the movie for the audiences) but most of it is watch-once stuff.

There are also six minutes' worth of alternate takes, with Phil talking to his wife in the car, prepping his team and arguing with the drill instructor Mike (with quite a funny extension to his juice-box name-calling). I'm not entirely sure why these are separate from the deleted scenes because they aren't really any different in nature.

Kicking & Screaming
From Rome to Hollywood is a nine-minute featurette about the two Italian kids who join the football team halfway through the movie. Some of the crew and cast members (including Ferrell and Duvall) pop up to talk about the kids, why they were in the movie and how they actually could not speak much English in real life. They discuss how good they are at football (they specifically wanted two excellent players for these roles) and even the kids get a few moments of glory (with a rather odd female translator talking over the top as opposed to having subtitles). We get some behind the scenes footage and location shots in amidst the clips from the main movie itself but the most interesting aspect is the football practice itself where the kids show off their skills.

‘Soccer Camp’ is an eight-minute look at the soccer teams as a whole. Ferrell and Duvall both praise the football skills exhibited in the movie, the Director pops up to talk about the choreography and the clash between the acting kids and the football playing kids and there is plenty of footage of the kids rehearsing. Some of the kids get sound-bites, offering up their opinions on the rigorous training schedule they undertook, and the kids who like this movie are probably going to enjoy watching this little featurette. (Adults may find it a little tedious and pointless.)

‘Behind the Net: The Making of Kicking & Screaming’ is a thirteen-minute behind the scenes documentary about the production of this movie. We get plenty more background and b-roll footage, interviews with all the main cast and crew members, football rehearsal clips, final film shots, all with an irritating soundtrack in the background to give it that fast-paced MTV feel. They talk about why they made the movie, how they are paying tribute to football (although they obviously refuse to call it that) and the basis for the story: how there really were two young child prodigy football players who turned a team around and took them to the big leagues. They discuss getting big cast members aboard (like Duvall and Mike Ditka) and once again the kids get to have their say. As for the other featurettes, fans of the movie will enjoy this insightful little piece.

Kicking & Screaming

Overall


Kicking & Screaming is an odd new comedy from Will Ferrell. Not quite entertaining enough for kids but yet nowhere near suitable for adults, it ends up failing on both levels. The DVD release is certainly above average, with a good transfer and an above-average soundtrack, along with some nice extras (which are also mostly aimed at younger audiences) but that still does not solve the problem of who exactly this product is marketed for. Avid Ferrell fans (both young and old) can give this a rental and those of you who find you enjoy it will not be disappointed by this solid release.


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