A “Bad News Bears” for soccer dads, ‘Kicking’ is a dead weight comedy trying to earn laughs out of its solid albeit overrated lead star. Ferrell’s mugging and constant screaming have become such a regular part of movies these days, its hard to find it funny anymore. Yet he’s still got the talent as its his more slapstick efforts at physical comedy that delivers the few laughs in the threadbare plot about kids sports, machismo and daddy issues.
What few good moments in here feel for the most part improvised. An opening segment set in Ferrell’s comedy days is hilarious, ditto a funny albeit predictable dart game. Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka also lends surprisingly strong support as Ferrell’s assistant coach, whilst the kids themselves are cute (especially the little Chinese guy). For some reason there’s a whole bunch of gags revolving around coffee at the local Starbucks-like store which also yields the odd smile.
The trouble is so much of the film feels old. From the limp storyline which struggles to fill the run time, the assorted gags about sports and parents that have been done countless times before – even the score which retreads ubiquitous and all too familiar pop songs. Jesse Dylan’s lacklustre directing never lifts the action beyond the pale, only going to show that the film is essentially serving as a pure star vehicle for Ferrell rather than as an effective comedy that just happens to star the former SNL star.
More than Ferrell has done recently, this is purely aimed at kids and on that level it’ll probably find its most receptive audience. Duvall’s almost brutally evil over competitive father figure may serve a story point but Duvall hammers it home far too much to deliver a character that’s all too nasty for a film that so soft pedals everything else. Despite the odd goal, this is one game that’s worth forfeiting.