Kicking and Screaming: Criterion Misjudges the Past

Kicking and Screaming: Criterion Misjudges the Past

Whose Josh Hamilton? Apparently some actor that spends as much time treading the boards as he does in front of a camera. That’s not a criticism at all – and in fact, it might be considered laudatory seeing as the guy’s apparently escaped being a part of lesser Hollywood fair over the years.

Thing is, though, Hamilton stars in Noah Baumbach’s first feature length effort – the 1995 Kicking and Screaming, that for some unknowable reason, was re-issued by the Criterion Collection a few years back. The film being released in this deluxe edition missed by a year the effort’s tenth anniversary. When taking that time frame into consideration, pegging the movie as a second rate grunge proclamation becomes pretty easy.

While nearing 2011, we’re all far enough away from 1991 that a re-evaluation of that lost decade seems appropriate. So, whatever happened to Alternative Nation? Well, it seems like it was all mythologized not too long after occurring. The nineties weren’t really any more awesome than other decades. Some weird shit happened. Some awful music got made as well as some good music and film.

Slacker, Richard Linklater’s, first film, though, basically serves as the spiritual forefather of Kicking and Screaming. And while that first film set out a template by which to make decent movies on the cheap, what Baumbach seemed to take away from it was that using elevated speech and rambling on about mundane topics in any manner constitutes a good film.

While Slacker is and was a monumental accomplishment in some ways, it’s paced pretty poorly and gets more than boring in a few spots. Kicking and Screaming is basically those dead sections, but for about an hour and a half.

Following recent college graduates through the first few months after emerging from school could have served as an interesting basis for a film – and surely, one exists somewhere. But the stoney dialogue here doesn’t do much more than draw scenes out past any sort of tenable duration.

Elliot Gould cropping up as a character’s divorced father’s pretty entertaining, but the thrill’s short lived. And really, at this point, Kicking and Screaming is more notable for its inclusion of actors that would – off into the future – impact film in one way or another. And yeah, Baumbach’s style does begin to solidify here. It’s just that what’s meant to pass as moderately humorous doesn’t. At least he figures that out eventually.