Film review: “Kicking and Screaming”

Kicking and Screaming” will leave most parents whose kids dragged them to this movie doing just that.

Although the film is sometimes gut-busting, it constantly struggles to balance Will Ferrell’s raunchy humor with a kid-friendly “PG” rating.

The family comedy begins when Buck Weston (Robert Duvall), little league soccer coach of the champion Gladiators, trades his grandson to the last-place Tigers. When the Westons arrive at their first Tigers game, the coach does not show up, forcing Phil Weston (Ferrell) to spontaneously take command of his son’s team.

Shockingly, the “Bad News Bears”-esque Tigers start winning under new coach Phil, aided by bitter assistant Mike Ditka (who plays himself). As the movie progresses, however, the team starts to question Phil’s coaching motives, especially after he develops a prominent case of hyper activity and a strange coffee obsession.

Director Jesse Dylan does what he can with this carefully edited, far too family-appropriate script, and as a result, the movie remains just that — a desperate (and unsuccessful) attempt to make Ferrell “PG”-rated. Unfortunately, the script gives the “Saturday Night Live” alum little to work with, and the funniest moments seem to be stolen directly from his previous film “Anchorman.” Ferrell’s hilarious improvisational skills are under-utilized, and the movie suffers as a result.

To his credit, Ditka sparkles as the know-it-all assistant coach, but this one-joke scheme sags after the first 15 minutes.

“Kicking and Screaming” would need a “PG-13” rating to succeed, and while the second half is far better than the first, it’s not necessarily worth the wait. Don’t waste nine bucks to see this snoozer in theaters — kick back with a rented “Anchorman” DVD that’s half the cost and twice the quality.

— Jon Greenberg