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 Phils son Sam from the team he
Will ferrell had better be careful, or hes going to turn into this centurys 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 (well withhold judgement
until weve seen next months 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 its more about situation than character, and an uninspiring situation at that. When the opposite is true, that brings its own problems (Elf and Anchorman werent exactly strong on plot), but Ferrells rarely bettered when it comes to wringing guffaws out of an absurd creation like idiot newsreader Ron Burgundy or Zoolanders poodle-haired fashionista Mugatu. Playing affable dad Phil, there are few guffaws to be wrung.
Admittedly, theres a fair few titters (during Ferrells 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 hes been given by the writers of Space Jam and The Santa Clause cant produce much more.
He doesnt receive much assistance, either. And were not just talking about the predictably wincey child performances. While its good to see Robert Duvall lightening up in the competitive dad role, you cant 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 its 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, hes making a no-doubt lucrative career move with both eyes open.
This years Dodgeball? Not a chance. Ferrell admirably tackles the so-so material, but it soon defeats him.