Kicking & Screaming
Unless the kids are Kicking & Screaming to get to Will Ferrell's film, parents might want to think twice about buying tickets for this athletic event. Despite the roster of young actors in the credits, this storyline deals less with minor soccer players and more with the competition disease that often infects adult spectators when their kids run onto the field.
Like a hundred films before it, this movie pits a well-trained team of athletes against a mishmash of pitiable underdogs who have to come from behind-way behind-in order to succeed. Only this time, the team's biggest obstacle just happens to be the coach.
Phil Weston (Will Ferrell) is a mild-mannered vitamin vendor who has grown up with his hard-hitting, sports-driven father, Buck (Robert Duvall). As a kid, the awkward, gangly Phil was on his Dad's soccer lineup. But he never quite lived up to Buck's expectations and as a result, spent most of his time warming the bench.
Now Phil's son, Sam (Dylan McLaughlin), has been traded to the last-place squad in the league, and the group needs an adult leader. Rather than leave Sam sitting on the sidelines, Phil agrees to step up to the crease and coach the boys in spite of his lack of skill. The rest of the parents, including an unemployed father, a lesbian couple and a timid soccer mom, all breathe a sigh of relief when the position is filled.
Initially sporting a "let's have fun" attitude, Phil tries to corral the undisciplined misfits and teach them some drills. However when they fail to listen up, he engages the assistance of former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka (played by himself). Chomping on his cigar, the cranky Hall-of-Famer resorts to his famous hard line training tactics and puts the boys through their paces. He also helps Phil recruit a secret weapon to improve their chances for a win.
Given the faint hope of victory, the once passive pill pusher begins to morph into a coaching maniac who develops an insatiable addiction for success and coffee.
While java junkies may squirm at Phil's cappuccino compulsion, the script does come around to promote moderation in all things. Unfortunately, the film proves to be only moderate itself. From the get go, it's apparent who the two teams in the ultimate match will be. Getting there is what takes time. Sadly, clumsy editing and choppy cinematography do little to move the storyline along and the feel good conclusion, when it finally comes, is hardly believable.
Rooting for the underdog isn't a bad thing but cheering for this out-of-control coach gets more than a little tiresome by the time this painful soccer season rolls to an end.