Kicking & Screaming starts properly. The opening moments are not far off from Adam Sandler's hilarious golf outing Happy Gilmore. Mike Ditka and Robert Duvall have a spat. Will Ferrell sets up another ridiculous character created just for him. Then it falls apart.
There's no denying there are some hysterical sections in here. The adult cast does a fine job interacting with the children, and the young kids are great. There's a nice mix of adult humor in there, just subtle enough to earn a PG rating so everyone could be entertained.
That's where the positive points end. Director Jesse Dylan (American Wedding) offers some ridiculous camera angles and adds an annoying documentary styled "shaky" camera that adds nothing, but takes a lot. The soccer segments are great, with a low running camera that captures the speed of the sport when it's moving at its best.
There's also the problem that this just isn't a good sports movie. It's not original, you know where it's going to go within the first 10-minutes, and there are multiple levels of absurdity at work here. It goes way over any sense of normalcy a few times, and it's hard to tell if this is a screwball, slapstick, or serious comedy. For as intense as the soccer sequences are, there's nothing to hold them together, and one of the films best assets fails to offer the impact it should.
This drops Kicking & Screaming into forgettable sports comedy realm. It's blatantly obvious this is a film crafted for its stars, and as such, it tries to ride them all the way. It's not enough to save this one from mediocrity. (** out of *****)
Color is outstanding for this 2.35:1 widescreen transfer. It's gorgeous to look at, but typical issues arise. It's not difficult to pick out severe compression artifacts in multiple scenes, each instance more frustrating than the last. Edge enhancement is notable, but not severe. Minor aliasing issues pale in comparison to the compression. Still, it's the bold color that really brings this film out, and that's maintained on this DVD. (***)
Audio is definitely disappointing as this lifeless 5.1 mix barely qualifies for the Dolby logo. Everything from sideline soccer moms to kids on the field stay directly in the center channel. It's impossible to pick out any audio in the rear channels other than a split second sound of a dog running by the camera. The upbeat, fun, and appropriate soundtrack does well here, and it's certainly more forceful than the actual on-screen action. (**)
Extras are plentiful, and with the cast, the eight minutes worth of outtakes (called yellow cards to have some association with the film) is the best feature. These are funnier than the entire film. The "red cards" then become deleted scenes, totaling over 12-minutes. Every one of these is a wise cut, moving the film along (especially in the early going).
Alternate takes could have fit in with the deleted scenes, though they do have a reason to be included separately. Most of these are just dialogue changes (it's hard to imagine how much of the film was ad-libbed). Kickin' it with the Kids is one of the many self-explanatory features here. It's a usual "praising everyone involved" fluff piece for 3-minutes. Soccer Camp discusses the process of training the kids for their physical demands, and even at seven minutes, is surprisingly entertaining. The kids want to have fun; the trainer wants to be serious. It's a clash worth watching.
From Rome to Hollywood focuses on the two lead players on the team. The young soccer players pull off some amazing moves on the field, and this details the process of finding them and bringing them onto the set from their home country. It's a bit long at 9-minutes though. Finally, Behind the Net is a standard making of piece with no surprises. (***)
Even if Kicking & Screaming doesn't work on a level for adults, this does make a great movie for kids. The plot won't be tired, the young characters are easy to relate to, and any innuendo between the adults will be way over a child's head. It's lighthearted comedy that fails to capture the wide audience it wants to.
Note: Check out the trailer for the film: