Will Ferrell. You either love him or you hate him, because he pretty much hits the same note over and over again in the bulk of his movies. He’s had more than a few box office hits, like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Anchorman. But those are a couple of the big, recognizable members of his catalogue. There are also films like Kicking & Screaming.
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Ferrell plays Phil Weston, a grown man who continues to live under the thumb of his controlling, alpha male father. This is despite the fact Phil has carved out a successful life for himself with a wife, a child, and a business of his own. His father, played by Robert Duvall, coaches a kid’s soccer team and ends up cutting his own grandson. Phil responds by taking on coaching duties of the new soccer team his son is on to finally defeat his old man.
And the sports movie clichés ensue.
You get a lot of the standard Will Ferrell-isms in this movie. He gets loud and crazy frequently while making a lot of socially awkward/inappropriate decisions. And he’s surrounded by a group of misfit kids playing soccer with a couple of ringers, something that more than a few comedians have done in the past. Ladybugs with Rodney Dangerfield, anyone?
If you like Will Ferrell in his other films, then you’ll like him in this film. He has an affinity for sports films, including the aforementioned Talledega Nights that focused on the world of NASCAR. He’s also starred in Blades of Glory which paired him with Napoleon Dynamite as a figure skating duo against Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. And then there was the basketball film Semi-Pro, set against the merging of the NBA and ABA in the mid-1970s.
While Robert Duvall turns in a great performance as the overbearing father, the stand out of the film comes from a somewhat unlikely source.
Duvall has an ongoing feud with his neighbour, legendary coach of the Chicago Bears, Mike Ditka. Their war leads Ditka to team up with Ferrell to coach his team of child soccer players, the goal being to thoroughly crush Duvall. The relationship between Ditka and Ferrell is beyond ridiculous. Their conversations are almost insane, as is Ditka’s psychotic obsession with screwing with Weston’s father. And watching Phil Weston get caught between these two dominating personalities is both hilarious and painful. Ditka even introduces and subsequently addicts Ferrell’s clean cut Weston to coffee.
When you take out Ferrell’s usual insanity, Ditka’s obsessive behaviour, and Duvall’s gruffness, you’re pretty much left with the same old sports comedy. But those three performances are enough to throw a big enough twist on the old standard to make it interesting and funny.