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Kicking and Screaming (2005)

by on 2011/04/30

“I’m actually kind of sorry I saw that movie.”
— comment heard leaving the show

* *

In promoting the documentary The Posters Came from the Walls, one filmmaker made an interesting comment. He suggested the distinction between two bands, Depeche Mode (101) and U2, is that the latter produces music for people who hate music. If there is any validity to the metaphor, then Kicking and Screaming is surely the U2 of cinema.

I had no intention of reviewing this pit of dreck and yet, as I sat watching it, uncustomarily mute with incredulity, I felt I simply couldn’t let things lie.

Reading a semi-favourable review finally clinched the decision. Lest you go into this travesty expecting an Anchorman, be forewarned it’s rather as charmless as Elf is both winning and fun.

This time, Will Ferrell sleepwalks his way through the near-role labelled Phil Weston. He’s always been a disappointment to his sporting father, Buck (Robert Duvall). Now, a generation later, he becomes a father himself and — though ostensibly saner — he may not be very different from Buck after all.

Let me cut to the chase. I’m siding with the critics on this one. Surprise, surprise.

Ferrell could be said to play the same character in most of his starring roles. Here, he’s even worse, split between two opposing extremes. For the vast majority, he’s somnambulant as a loser, then contrapuntally hyper in order to “win”. Like the movie overall, any quarter given (team standings, coffee, relationships) is retracted in spades at some point.

Ferrell amuses in limited runs but quickly wears out any welcome. If he’s tiresome as a comedian, then he’s a downright toxic hazard as a straight or leading man. In fact, when he’s not an irritant, he’s an odd non-presence, existing to look ill, repeat others’ lines, and generally be ineffectual.

I worry for him in a way. When the funny runs out, what remains?

To be fair, he doesn’t have much to count on. In describing the poorly scripted story, I’m undecided on my adjective of choice: trite, cliched, or banal? Plus, lackluster support from a placeholder wife, a tragically derivative Alex Borstein, and an hypocritical Duvall, whose demonstrated “talent” here belies his vocal criticism of other fellow actors.

Ironically, only a glorified cameo by a slumming Mike Ditka amuses . . . but Ditka alone is nowhere near enough.

The pacing and editing conspire to render a final result resembling randomly shot incompetence, kludged to feature length. The score — when not riffing on Italian and Asian stereotypes — sounds like an hour and a half of “Little Green Bag”. A climactic scene set to the Black Eyed Peas single “Let’s Get It Started” missed an opportunity to maintain the offensiveness with the original, “Let’s Get Retarded”.

I might have known how this tale would be told for, despite her proclaimed affection, Grushenka hesitated with Kicking and Screaming. She must have felt, deep down inside, this malignancy had legitimate, serious issues.

Ultimately, I can’t get on too high a horse because I must admit to owning Drawn Together. Nevertheless, whether it’s my own chosen video or hers, I feel the need to call them as I see them. And from what I see, this sucking cinematic wound is her personal Drawn Together.

* *

Rated PG

95 minutes

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