Kicking And Screaming Review

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Nice guy Phil Weston (Ferrell) has been a disappointment to his soccer-obsessed dad, Buck (Duvall), ever since it became clear he had all the sporting potential of an emphysemic vole. But Buck goes too far when he transfers Phil’s son Sam from the team he


Will ferrell had better be careful, or he’s going to turn into this century’s Steve Martin. You know — the A-list funnyman who we fondly remember for his early, hilariously out-there character immersions, but who willingly softened his act so much that it made him depressingly suitable for the blandest

of mainstream comedies. Ferrell is not there yet (we’ll withhold judgement

until we’ve seen next month’s Bewitched), but Frat Pack-lovers be warned: this

has more in common with Cheaper By The Dozen than it does with Anchorman, or even the similarly sporty Dodgeball.

Its key flaw, as a ’Will Ferrell comedy’ at least, is that it’s more about situation than character, and an uninspiring situation at that. When the opposite is true, that brings its own problems (Elf and Anchorman weren’t exactly strong on plot), but Ferrell’s rarely bettered when it comes to wringing guffaws out of an absurd creation like idiot newsreader Ron Burgundy or Zoolander’s poodle-haired fashionista Mugatu. Playing affable dad Phil, there are few guffaws to be wrung.

Admittedly, there’s a fair few titters (during Ferrell’s opening crap-athletic slapstick sequence) and some chuckles (largely due to a subplot in which Phil becomes a twitching, ranting caffeine junkie), but the material he’s been given — by the writers of Space Jam and The Santa Clause — can’t produce much more.

He doesn’t receive much assistance, either. And we’re not just talking about the predictably wincey child performances. While it’s good to see Robert Duvall lightening up in the competitive dad role, you can’t help but wish that it had gone to someone more comedically astute, someone who could have seized on it with more relish. Someone like Rip Torn. And pro-US football Hall Of Famer Mike Ditka does a good surly bear impression, but it’s a turn that belongs more in the wrestling ring than on the big screen.

Yet all of the above are let down by director Jesse ‘American Wedding’ Dylan. From the jarring, inappropriate use of shaky handhelds, to patchy pacing during the supposedly crucial match scenes, he reduces the film to little more than

a technical mess. Ferrell, in particular, deserves far better than this. But our sympathies are limited. Like Steve Martin before him, he’s making a no-doubt lucrative career move with both eyes open.

This year’s Dodgeball? Not a chance. Ferrell admirably tackles the so-so material, but it soon defeats him.