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Originally published Friday, May 13, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

Real-life soccer 3, movie soccer 1

"Kicking & Screaming," the Will Ferrell soccer-dad comedy, doesn't remotely measure up to real-life soccer-field drama. I once watched a...

Seattle Times movie critic

"Kicking & Screaming," the Will Ferrell soccer-dad comedy, doesn't remotely measure up to real-life soccer-field drama. I once watched a team of 6-year-old girls, pigtails dancing, take the field on a Saturday morning. The game, if you want to call it that, consisted of a very little bit of kicking and a great deal of seemingly random running around and giggling, or standing still and giggling.

Occasionally a little girl would stand motionless in front of the ball, as encouraging parents helpfully screamed, "KICK THE BALL!" She would giggle, and maybe kick, but more likely just giggle.

Sometimes, due less to kicking skill than to the fact that the goalie had gotten bored and wandered off, a goal would be scored. And then there were snacks. This was, as you can imagine, very entertaining, far more so than the average movie.

Movie review 1.5 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Kicking & Screaming," with Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Kate Walsh, Mike Ditka, Dylan McLaughlin, Josh Hutcherson, Musetta Vander. Directed by Jesse Dylan, from a screenplay by Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick. 87 minutes. Rated PG for thematical elements, language and some crude humor. Several theaters.

Which is very much what "Kicking & Screaming" is, if you're generous — an average-at-best movie, unabashedly aimed at the soccer-parent set. Ferrell, in regular-guy golf shirts, plays Phil Weston, a suburban vitamin salesman who grew up in the shadow of his very competitive dad Buck (Robert Duvall, slumming).

Now his own son, Sam (Dylan McLaughlin), plays Little League soccer, and Phil finds himself caught up in the cutthroat atmosphere of it all. He'll do anything, it seems, to bring Sam's motley team to victory.

Family-friendly movies (this one's a low-key PG) are rare enough these days, and the relative success of such mediocre recent efforts as "The Pacifier" and "Are We There Yet?" indicates that there's an audience eager for them.

But that's what "Kicking & Screaming" feels like: a movie made to order for a specific demographic, without art or wit. The teaming of a movie star with a cute band of kids isn't necessarily a recipe for bland moviemaking — "School of Rock," for example, was a kick, for kids and adults alike.

But nobody, from director Jesse Dylan (yes, he's Bob's son) to screenwriters Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick to Ferrell himself (who spends the movie alternating between haplessness and caffeine-fueled rage), seems to have put much effort into "Kicking & Screaming."

It just plods along, harmless but lifeless, going exactly where you think it's going — Phil learns, to the surprise of no one, that extreme competitiveness is a Bad Thing. And then it ends, without snacks, unless you want to count the kid who eats a worm. For better soccer entertainment, see "Bend It Like Beckham" — or any nearby field.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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