Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Trust me, give this one a miss

I guess I had grown resigned to TV- and movie-land's idea of men and fathers - routinely misandrist and patriphobic - but I have to say that Will Ferrell's "Kicking and Screaming" is a stand out execrable example. The story is chronically cliched, but has been done well in the past. Not so here. Good grief, but this movie sucks.

Phil Weston (Ferrell) is constantly dominated by his father (Played, it grieves me to say, by the otherwise incomparable Robert Duvall. Oh Mr. Duvall, why, oh why?) who coaches a successful little league soccer team. When Weston senior trades his grandson, Weston junior's son, to the team at the bottom of the league, Phil takes over coaching that team.

Can you guess what happens? Uh-huh. That's right. Phil then makes it his mission in life to coach his team to beat his father's team. Can you guess how it all turns out? Uh-huh. That's right. There is no surprise at all in the outcome. There are no surprises in the story. At any point. It even stoops so miserably low as to turn Weston into, you guessed it, an even more cartoonish version of his father. I'm telling you, formulaic doesn't enter into it.

Even so, you might think it the sort of movie that might amuse a kid, for whom the story might yet contain some novelty and inspiration. Hey, you might think there would be at least one admirable role model for him, an opportunity to show how gritty determination can win the day. You might think that.

But no. Without exception, the men in the movie are all pathetically inadequate and/or bullies. Like I said, an appalling waste of Robert Duvall's considerable talent, never mind the reflection on the mind sets of the studio, writer, director and producer. The only real determination present is that of Weston senior to keep his son in his place and of Weston junior to beat his father.

The only sensible adult behavior, of course, comes from the women, but the real adults in the movie are pretty much all ten years old. The moment at which Weston is supposed to be showing some real maturity involves an excruciatingly childish apology to his team. "Sorry, with a capital 'S' and a capital 'orry'".

Perhaps the lowest point is when Weston has a puerile anxiety attack in front of his son while recounting some of his own father's behavior towards him. His wife, who is more of a mother to him than to their child, brings him out of it by slapping his face, hard, also in front of their son. The movie contains multiple instances of physical abuse of children, always by the men, and sometimes quite unselfconsciously about it.

It's supposed to be a comedy, but I don't think I even smiled, let alone laughed. It's supposed to be about fathers and sons, but fathers are supposed to be the parents, not the children. It's supposed to be about growth and maturity, but no-one learned anything but the crudest of lessons. The makers clearly think their audience are knuckle-dragging morons.

Ferrell has made a career of deadpanning obliviously inappropriate behavior, here he's just inappropriate. The movie has no redeeming features at all, the only reason I watched it to the end was so I could truthfully make that claim.


Pumpkin said...

I'm not a fan of Will Ferrel myself....tend to cringe at the mere thought of him (not a snob, but his 'comedies are totally cringeworthy over-the-top). Anyway, I think you've seen something that most people miss or don't even notice when watching films like this....that generally the 'father' figure is turned into some kind of joke and it's the women who play the strong, mature role! Perhaps it's supposed to be ironic...I'm not sure, but either way, you're right, it is excruciatingly bad to see that on films that are aimed at impressionable kids!
The one film I saw as a young girl that left a lasting impression on me about 'fathers' was a film called 'Dad' that had Ted Danson in it. Throughout the film the father (suffering from a degenerative dementia) displays constant love and dignity and ultimately teaches his son (Danson) about what it means to be a Father. I guess that considering how much crap you've been through, you will notice more than most that films promoting fathers as being good parents with as much love and tenderness to offer their children as the mother are very few and far between.
It really does!!!
Keep fighting......I've already pointed a friend to your blog and he's agreed you are an inspiration!

Luna Emperatrice said...

I hate Will Ferrel! How he got to be famous is still a mystery to me. I don't watch any of his movies. NOT even on cable tv.

A great movie I must say that all must watch at one point in their lives would have to be I Am Sam.
It was simply great!
It talked about an autistic father and his efforts to retain custody of his daughter.

Anonymous said...

I hate Will Ferrell with all my liver; always have and always will. But thank you for the review. Now when my husband says he would like to see this movie, I can honestly say I have heard it portrays fathers in a bad light and that it sucks.

Anonymous said...

Just more bullshit off of the presses, honestly I could care less anymore on how fathers are portrayed. I mean sure, every once in awhile fathers goof off, or some dads use humor as a way to bond with their kids, but can you honestly say that the portrayal of almost ALL fathers as meadering idiots is an accurate one? Or a healty one for that matter?