The rules of Hollywood state that every rising star must do at least one sweet-centred kiddie flick, and this week it's Will Ferrell's turn. Following the standard template of no-hoper sports team transformed by an unlikely mentor, Kicking & Screaming sees Ferrell as a mild-mannered dad forced into coaching a Little League soccer team. To win the league he must defeat his his domineering bully of a father (Robert Duvall, proving once and for all that he's no comedian).
Somewhere in the haze of cutesy kiddies, slapstick pratfalls and neatly packaged messages of inspiration, there is a funny movie trying to get out. Ferrell does his best with some thankless material: his Phil Weston is a menacing Jekyll and Hyde figure, starting the film as a wimpy vitamin salesman and morphing into a coffee-guzzling tyrant who will happily knock children over when the referee isn't looking. But, like Duvall - who is memorably unpleasant as Ferrell senior - he just seems to be trying too hard.
The result is a rather schizophrenic movie; groaningly familiar around the edges but with a pair of frighteningly unpredictable monsters at the centre.
The kids themselves take Ferrell's screaming fits with a good-natured shrug and concentrate on the footballing scenes, which are enlivened by a pair of pint-sized Italian soccer-stars and real-life superbowl coach Mike Ditka, playing himself in a performance that's as brusque as a Brillo pad. Trivia fans might be interested to know that director Jesse Dylan is Bob Dylan's son. Now there's a guy with father issues.