A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kicking & Screaming includes repeated scenes of physical violence against children. Though this is staged as humor -- specifically, a function of the immaturity and insecurity of perpetrators Phil (Will Ferrell) and his father Buck (Robert Duvall) -- it's also annoying and even startling (Phil kicks his own 10-year-old son, Buck pushes another child into a pool). The soccer game scenes are mostly fun, but do include a few rough action sequences. A couple of characters are slapped, punched, and kneed in the groin, adults smoke and drink (Phil becomes addicted to coffee and very jittery). In one scene, the kids' team emerges from a van covered in blood (following an afternoon chopping meat in a butcher's shop), and so intimidate their opponents into forfeiting the game. Phil instructs his team members to bay at the moon like dogs. One child on the team has lesbian parents, who make Phil nervous, though he does his best to be "correct."
What's the story?
A poor athlete as a child, Phil (Will Ferrell) was traumatized by his dictatorial father Buck, a hypercompetitive sporting goods salesman. A vitamin salesman as an adult, Phil can't win his father's respect. Phil's decision to coach the Tigers, his son Sam's (Dylan McLaughlin) little league soccer team, puts him into direct competition with Buck, who coaches the rival Gladiators (which includes Buck's own 10-year-old son, Bucky [Josh Hutcherson], born to a second, sexy, young wife after Phil's mom divorced Buck). Though Phil's wife Barbara (Kate Walsh) does her best to help him keep the season in perspective, he devotes himself wholly to beating his father. Phil enlists the help of Mike Ditka (playing himself, smoking cigars, and apparently just as glad that he didn't run for Senator from Illinois), who in turn finds two Italian boys -- Gian Piero (Francesco Liotti) and Massimo (Alessandro Ruggiero). The Tigers begin to win, leading them at last to the championship match with the Gladiators.
Is it any good?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the basic lesson it offers: that playing fairly and having fun are more important than winning. Though the movie spends more time on the cheating and excessive investment in competing, you might talk about how kids can play games to practice skills and enjoy each other's company. The film also demonstrates the lingering effects of an emotionally abusive parent, so you might discuss the best ways parents and children can communicate needs, praise, and affection. As well, the presence of adopted child Byong Sun (Elliott Cho) might encourage discussion of how you define families.
- In theaters: May 13, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: October 11, 2005
- Cast: Kate Walsh, Robert Duvall, Will Ferrell
- Director: Jesse Dylan
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, language and some crude humor
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