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Just for Kicks (September 28/03)

It's unlikely Just for Kicks will hold much appeal for anyone over a certain age (that age being around twelve). It's been made exclusively for kids, unapologetically so, and adults probably won't find much here to enjoy. But the whole thing is just so predictable and silly, that it's easy enough to watch without thinking too much about it; it's as harmless as a declawed kitten.

Identical twins Cole and Dylan Sprouse star as identical twins Cole and Dylan Martin, a pair of soccer playing brothers that just aren't very good at the sport. Their dad, Presscott (Tom Arnold), is supposed to coach their team, but when he's called away on business, mom Mandy (Lori Sebourn-Carhart) steps in. Not surprisingly, the Martin boys - along with their teammates - aren't too keen on being trained by a housewife with limited knowledge of soccer. But when Cole and Dylan spot a mysterious stranger named Rudy (Bill Dawes) with some impressive moves, they recruit the man to become their new coach.

Just for Kicks contains all the ingredients for a ragtag-team-makes-good story - evil opponents, a coach that comes out of his shell, and lousy players that learn to work together as a team - but the problem is, it's the sort of thing we've seen countless times before. But even though it's not exactly a fresh concept for a movie, it's still done and it's usually done fairly well. Hardball, the 2001 Keanu Reeves baseball comedy, didn't stray far from the formula, but managed to remain entertaining primarily because the movie was peppered with better-than-expected acting and an overall sense of professionalism. Just for Kicks, on the other hand, was clearly filmed on the cheap and the acting is terrible all around. The Sprouse twins, having appeared with Adam Sandler in Big Daddy, aren't the worst child actors I've ever seen (that honor would probably go to those kids from Stolen Summer), but they certainly leave a lot to be desired. And the adult actors aren't much better, generally ranging from inept to all-out horrible (it's a sorry state of affairs when Tom Arnold is the most talented performer in a film).

But really, all that stuff is moot. The only thing that matters with Just for Kicks is whether or not it'll entertain its target audience, and there's no denying that sports-oriented kids will probably (pardon the pun) get a kick out of the film. And parents will probably appreciate the movie's message - even geeky kids can become great atheletes - and the innocuous nature of the story ensures that older viewers will merely find Just for Kicks silly (as opposed to offensively appalling).

out of

About the DVD: Unfortunately, Just for Kicks is the latest family film to receive the full-screen treatment. It's really a shame that the studios continue to believe that kid-friendly flicks aren't worthy of letterboxed transfers. The extras are limited to six MGM trailers (including one for this film).
© David Nusair