*1/2 (out of 5)
September 14, 2007
Billy Bob Thornton as MR. WOODCOCK
Seann William Scott as JOHN FARLEY
Susan Sarandon as BEVERLY FARLEY
Amy Poehler as MAGGIE HOFFMAN
Melissa Sagemiller as TRACY
Ethan Suplee as NEDDERMAN
Studio: New Line Cinema
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
BY KEVIN CARR
As much as I like Billy Bob Thornton as an actor, I am getting tired of him doing revamped versions of his “Bad Santa” role. While I wasn’t a big fan of “Bad Santa,” I have to say his other movie with the cantankerous old man haven’t been nearly as good.
His latest typecast pigeon hole is the unfunny comedy wannabe “Mr. Woodcock.” Sure, the trailers are funny, but they’re really the only thing about this movie that was… well, the trailers and the title.
Like the recent “Balls of Fury,” I got the distinct feeling that “Mr. Woodcock” was green-lit on the title and premise alone: Gym teacher from hell starts boinking the mother of his least-favorite student. While this idea makes for some funny jokes – and admittedly some laugh-out-loud moments – the script is woefully undercooked.
The film follows John Farley (Seann William Scott), a self-help guru who returns home to face the gym teacher (Billy Bob Thornton) who made his life miserable while in middle school. However, few seem to share his feelings – least of which his mother (Susan Sarandon), who is currently dating him.
Throughout the film, John tries to sabotage his mother’s new relationship with what’s meant to be hilarious results. Unfortunately, like the rest of the humor that was left out of the trailer, things fall completely flat. Ethan Suplee offers a small part as a version of Randy Hickey from “My Name Is Earl.” However, without Jason Lee to provide a foil, he’s lost in the film.
Also lost in the film is Melissa Sagemiller as a potential love interest for John Farley, but her performance is wasted with only a handful of scenes and absolutely no depth to her character.
In fact, the best character in the film is John’s publicist, played by the quirky Amy Poehler. When all was said and done, if they could have found a way to make the movie about her character and Ethan Suplee, it probably would have been a hit.
It’s a real shame this film couldn’t have been better. The premise works incredibly well. After all, can’t we all remember that awful gym teacher (or other pseudo-educator) that soiled our school years. And haven’t we all faced the occasion when we feel no one sees the injustice in the world.
The failing point in “Mr. Woodcock” is that the film tries to be too nice as things come to an end. That’s not a bad thing to do in a film, per se. But when you’ve set up a character to be the personal Antichrist to another, you can’t resolve things so easily.
The reality is that Mr. Woodcock is an A-1 jerk – maybe not to John’s mother, but definitely to everyone he teaches. However, John’s a total wimp. He never tells his mother what Woodcock did to him in school (which would be enough to get the guy arrested today). He just whines about how much he doesn’t like him. And finally, the mother is such a weak-willed, self-centered lame-brain, she doesn’t see Woodcock for what he really is.
If Mr. Woodcock himself were to assess this movie, he’d say, “This movie is a disgrace to all goopy, gelatinous, half-baked movies the world over.