As we follow the escalatingly insane escapades of Phil and his motley crew of 10-year-olds, it becomes apparent that this ranklingly manic comedy wasn't directed so much as allowed to happen. Like "Zoolander," the "Austin Powers" movies and other high-concept but low-effort comedies, "Kicking and Screaming" empty-headedly follows its star around, slavishly documenting every antic with no sense of when to yell "cut." Ferrell is, as usual, immensely funny (such as when he solemnly warns the Tigers that if they lose, they will be doomed to "face a series of cataclysmic events for the rest of their lives"), but his humor is cut off at the knees by sloppy editing, a tedious pace and an underwhelming payoff. Starring Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall, Mike Ditka, Kate Walsh and Dylan McLaughlin. Directed by Jesse Dylan. Written by Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick. Produced by Jimmy Miller. A Universal release. Comedy. Rated PG for thematic elements, language and some crude humor. Running time: 94 min
Kicking And Screaming
Those who predicted "Kicking and Screaming" would repeat the "Bad News Bears" formula were overly optimistic. Would that it had followed such a winsome template. Instead, "Kicking and Screaming" is as big a mess as the Tigers, a loser junior soccer team Will Ferrell's milquetoast Phil is roped into coaching in order to bond with his son -- and stand up to his own ruthlessly competitive father, Buck (Robert Duvall), leader of the rival Warriors. Phil's noble intentions are immediately derailed when his woefully unskilled charges drive him to ingest stimulants: a health nut, his system goes into overdrive when he becomes addicted to coffee. This innocuous transgression presumably absolves Phil of his more egregious behavior as his "Let's have fun" mantra is quickly replaced with an exhortation to "win at all costs." But helmer Jesse Dylan (whose credits, if they can be called that, include "American Wedding" and "How High") can't blame his own cluelessness on caffeine.