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Like last year's School for Scoundrels, Woodcock is yet another movie
in which Billy Bob Thornton plays a violent dick (no pun intended) and
fails to be anywhere near as funny as he should be, thanks to a sloppy,
almost laugh-less script. To make matters worse, he's not the only
comedian whose considerable talents are wasted on this predictable
mess; Ethan Suplee and Seann William Scott, two of the funniest men
alive, have nearly nothing to do with their characters. Speaking of
predictability, here's a cliché for you: Seen the trailer? Then you've
seen the movie. Just about every truly funny part was crammed into the
I love Bad Santa and all, but it has really done more harm than good seeing as another Thornton-acts-like-a-sociopath-and-gets-away-with-it "comedy" gets released every year. He is an amazing actor and totally wasted on these forgettable carbon copies. I'm not denying that I laughed a couple of times ('cause let's face it, Thornton abusing kids is funny by default) but in the end Woodcock is just a half-baked comedy-drama which is neither hilarious nor touching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I tried to think of funnier Billy Bob Thornton films than his latest
tepid comedy, "Mr. Woodcock," and came up with the following: "Bad News
Bears," "Ice Harvest," "Pushing Tin," "Friday Night Lights," "Bad
Santa," "Monster's Ball" and "Sling Blade." Heck, even "Goodfellas and
"Passion of the Christ" had more laughs than this pointless piece of
dredge which takes the worst elements of "Meet the Parents" and "The
Girl Most Likely To," although with none of the charm, intelligence or
humor of these pictures.
After viewing this movie, however, I have a new-found respect for such comedic works as "R.V.," "Are We There/Done Yet?," "License To Wed," "Guess Who?," "Soul Plane," "King's Ranson," "My Baby's Daddy," "Little Man" and any of the "Scary Movie" versions.
So, I suppose the experience wasn't all terrible ...
Ah, but this film was. With two Academy Award-nominated lead actors (Thornton, nominated for "Sling Blade" in 1996, and Susan Sarandon, winner in 1995 for "Dead Man Walking") joining up with Seann William Scott ("American Pie," "Old School") one would think some snickers would result, but few come about.
The plot has Williams as John Farley (where's CHRIS Farley when we need him?), a successful self-help author, whose latest book, "Getting Past Your Past," is climbing the bestseller charts. This notoriety allows him to be honored by his small hometown in Nebraska.
Going back to receive the Corn County Key honor, his trip home only results in the depressing reality that his mother (Sarandon) will marry his old gym teacher, Mr. Woodcock (Thornton). Woodcock was not only an intense physical education instructor, but a sadist.
He humiliates, insults and verbally berates his students, throws balls at them, forces them to run laps and do push-ups as punishment, even those with asthma. But he saves his special vindictiveness for Farley, whom he delights in abusing - mentally and physically. He throws him to the ground repeatedly while teaching wrestling moves; and even forces him to undress and do pull-ups in front of the other students.
Now, if something like this REALLY took place, one of the pupils would have surely mentioned it to SOMEONE, and disciplinary action would have been taken against Woodcock. But, evidently, for over 20 years, no one has ever said anything bout this abuse, so the town decides to honor him as educator of the year - to be given at the same time as Farley's.
Also, everyone in the berg seems to love the old guy, while Farley's significant other, Tracy (Melissa Sagemiller, "The Guardian") admits to having a crush on him.
Meanwhile, dredging up all of those bad memories and combining them with the fact that the evil man is having sex with his mother, causes Farley to abandon his nice, passive, positive philosophy and do everything he can to bring Woodcock down. In this endeavor, he utilizes the aid of his extremely stupid friend, Nederman (Ethan Suplee, "My Name Is Earl"). In fact, the only likable character is Maggie (Amy Poehler, "SNL"), Farley's bitchy agent.
He challenges him to a workout contest, as well as a series of carnival midway games and even a corn-eating contest. None of these situations is even remotely funny in any way, shape or form. During its mercifully-short 90-minute run, I laughed just twice - once at the very beginning, and once at the very end.
That last guffaw was no doubt brought on by the delirium of the closeness of the closing credits, however. And longtime commercial director Craig Gillespie (in his film debut) doses out the "comedy" with large slices of schmaltz, as well as a muddled conclusion, leaving patrons wondering off to movies like "Death Sentence" and "The Brave One" to satisfy their urge to laugh.
I was so excited to see Mr. Woodcock today, saw the matinée this
morning and I have to say that Mr. Woodcock lived up to my
expectations. It was a great comedy to watch and had a lot of fun
laughs. I think the reason why I love this film so much is because I
could totally relate to it, in junior high I was the fat kid and had
the teacher who must have been the partner of Satan, he was evil. I've
changed quite a bit since then, but I still think of that teacher every
once in a while. So this was just such a good comedy for everyone who
has had to deal with a gym teacher like Mr. Woodcock. The actors seemed
to really enjoy themselves, it was cool seeing Sean William Scott out
of his normal idiotic roles and into something where he just was a
normal guy, he did good. Billy Bob Thorton couldn't have been a more
perfect choice, he was terrific. Together they really made the story
work and was actually believable.
John Farley is a very successful author of the book "Letting Go", a book on how to let go of a rough past and rebuild your life. He comes back home to surprise his mom and get a special award for his work, but he finds out his mom is dating someone he knows. Mr. Woodcock, the evil junior high gym teacher that made John's life a living hell; and it looks like Mr. Woodcock has not changed his ways when he starts to treat "Farley" the same way he did when he was a kid. But it looks like they have to get comfortable with each other since Mr. Woodcock is marrying John's mom.
The cast looked like they just had a great time. I know this story was extremely predictable, but it was all in good fun. I loved seeing John's character just loose it as the story continued. There were some really great laughs in the film, the scene that got me was definitely the pot hole scene, I'm not going to spoil it, but I guarantee you for sure that you'll get a huge laugh once you see it. Mr. Woodcock is a fun comedy that I recommend, Billy Bob is just an awesome Mr. Woodcock, he really made the movie into a blast.
I was pretty excited to see this movie because from what I saw it
seemed really funny and I like Seann William Scott but I have to say I
was sort of disappointed. Granted I went in expecting a funny stupid
comedy but, it really wasn't all that funny. It seemed to me like they
put all the funny scenes into the trailers and the rest of the movie
was just filler. It's like they tried to be a really hilarious comedy
but then towards the end they tried to take an emotional turn and by
then I was pretty disappointed by the lack of hilarity that I didn't
care anymore. And don't get me wrong, I did laugh, but I laughed at all
the parts I had already seen in the trailers.
All in all, this movie wasn't a total failure, but I wouldn't bother watching it again.
Successful novelist Seann William Scott returns to his hometown to be honored for his career. His mother (Susan Sarandon) now dates the titled character (Billy Bob Thornton), Scott's former gym teacher who forever tormented and belittled him as a husky youth. Thus Scott must now break the two up and forever exorcise Thorton from his life and his past. Nickel and dime production of the simplest sort with admittedly bigger names than usual. Thornton's dead-pan, dead-eye approach is funny and effective to an extent. However, he lacks the material he had in similar ventures ("Bad Santa"). Sarandon seems like she is in the wrong movie all together and Scott still has that "American Pie" tendency to annoy rather than entertain the masses. Not bad for a chuckle and short enough to be painless, but it hardly makes a cinematic impression at all. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Mr. Woodcock is the sort of film that I usually dread going to see, a sort of Meet The Parents rip off in the same vein as recent pictures like Relative Strangers and Guess Who. To be fair this movie betters both of those considerably, mainly due to the talented cast at the directors reach. Seann William Scott is great for the first time since American Pie, in a much more subtle role. I expected many things after seeing this young man back in 1999 and The Dukes of Hazzard and American Wedding weren't among them, so to see him hit the comic notes perfectly again is quite refreshing. Thornton ever since heavy success with Bad Santa back in 2003 has been making a career of playing weirdos (usually mean ones) and as Woodcock he's a solid choice who digs up several strong laughs. Sarandon is a lot more cardboard and ultimately unmemorable in her role, you forget her character at times but I guess thats all the script wanted and shes a pretty good actress to snare for the part. The story is pretty strong and a really good idea for the most part, the whole idea should have nerds everywhere rejoicing and cringing in equal amounts. The comedy does feel slight when taken against the premise but at the same time it's never overly offensive or dumb. The script has ups and downs in terms of gags, but the overall feeling is pleasantly entertaining. I enjoyed this movie and probably would happily suggest you pick it up on DVD when it hits the Summer sales next year or indeed give it a rental on initial release.
Self-help guru who hated his gym teacher goes home to find his mom engaged to said teacher, stilted merriment tries to ensue. The idea is sound the execution isn't. Woodcock, Billy Bob Thorton's gym teacher character is much too one dimensional to really work since he has one expression the whole time. Sean William Scott as the self help guru tries too hard to be wacky and falls on his face. Actually the script just doesn't work since its so obvious where its going. There are laughs and smiles despite of the lack of it all hanging together, and one "Whoa" nervous "oh crap he really got hurt" laugh towards the end. Worth a look on a slow night on cable where you'll be more forgiving of the dull bits on the way to the good ones.
"Take a lap!" "Set of 10!"
With a name like W-o-o-d-c-o-c-k (roll it off your tongue slowly for maximum effect), you'd have expect the jokes to come fast and furious about the appendage. Well there are, however, the best parts of Mr Woodcock are not the sexual innuendos, but come from the various gymnasium scenes, where Jasper Woodcock (Billy Bob Thorton) the PE teacher runs his classes like a sadistic drill sergeant, and all the misfits tremble in fear and loathe as he puts them through the paces, with physical, mental and emotional abuse dished out in deadpan manner. The filmmakers know this, and set the bar high enough from the get go, but only for the movie to spiral in the general southwards direction.
Thirteen years after his unforgettable years of growing up under Mr Woodcock's insults, John Farley (Seann William Scott) becomes a renowned self help guru and published a bestseller called "Letting Go: How to Get Past Your Past", because it takes one successful loser to teach the rest how to move on. During a journey back home where you're hit with a barrage of literally corny jokes, John realizes to his horror that his mother Beverly (Susan Sarandon) is now dating Mr Woodcock, and he makes it his mission to dissuade her from giving him a new stepdad, one who has been the bane of his childhood.
That basically becomes the premise of the movie, and a highly predictable one at that. You'll see from a mile away every conceivable plot development coming toward you, and it doesn't help that the short run time of under 90 minutes probably meant some material were reserved for the DVD release. You can tell by some of the continuity errors, helped in no part by John's bad haircut episode.
Billy Bob Thorton owns the movie as Woodcock, delivery his deliciously acidic remarks with aplomb. Alpha-male type roles are nothing new to Thorton, and bullying or whipping losers to shape are part of the game, just like School for Scoundrels. And here he plays the unapologetic teacher with EQ problems, taking perverse delight in seeing his charges suffer. Sean William Scott is better known unfortunately for his loud and over the top Stifler from the American Pie movies, but given a rather muted character like John Farley, he fades away quicker than you can spell l-o-s-e-r. Susan Sarandon rounds up the lead cast as the woman caught between two men, and frankly I thought it was like an extension of her mother's role in Elizabethtown. Look out for more Sarandon in an upcoming movie called Enchanted, which takes the mickey out of a Disney movie. Most of the other supporting cast like Amy Poehler and Ethan Suplee got wasted, with the former being a self-professed alcoholic Barbie doll, while the other a fanatic who had read John's book 900 times and counting.
Mr Woodcock isn't laugh out loud or laugh a minute, but it has its moments. Sadly, most of the best bits made their way to the trailers, making the movie seem like an empty shell. And given the editing fiasco of late, Mr Woodcock suffers from censorship too, with what I thought was just verbal expressions of ecstasy being snipped off and left on the cutting room floor. Pity.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The most unfortunate thing about this movie is the waste of,
particularly, an excellent actress like Susan Sarandon but also for
wasting Seann William Scott, who has been far better in other comedies
(even the American Pie series had more humor and came across as more
realistic than Mr. Woodcock) and has also done well in some
dramatic/action movies, with comedic qualities in his performance, as
in Bulletproof Monk and the Rundown. The only actor in the movie who is
enhanced by this entire affair is Amy Poehler, who is far better used
here than she ever was in Blade of Glory. She gives an excellent,
scene-stealing, scene-chewing performance as Maggie, the press agent
and "handler" for Scott's inspirational How To book author character,
Sarandon plays his mom and its an age appropriate role for her and she looks fabulous even as a past middle age adult mother in a small, mid-west town. Her over the top roles in projects like Enchanted, or Children of Dune are better 'paycheck' roles for her than projects such as this or say Speed Racer.
The movie is technically proficient from a mainstream studio release point of view. However, it suffers from being a movie that, at least theatrically, barely made its production budget back (approximately $24M, not counting the cost of prints or promotion) -- and you have to wonder how much of that cost went to the director, who clearly did a by the numbers performance (many TV movies, even on basic cable, have more interesting elements in them) and a script that took every simple or easy way out. The script is credited on screen to two writers. It feels and comes across as if they sat around one afternoon thumbing through their old yearbooks, calling a few friends up for some more diverse gym-teacher horror stories, cobbled together the most basic of son/former boyfriend/co-worker/next door neighbor attempts to break couple that seem unsuitable at the start, succeeds, but in the standard-issue feel good ending, they must be brought back together at the last possible moment so the credits can roll on a happy popcorn satiated crowd.
It's predictable, its boring, it's not even mildly funny. There is one part where I laughed out loud, towards the end, a physical bit of comedy involving a pot hole and the Thorton character, Woodcock. However, laughing out loud was reflexive to what was otherwise a set up and joke that one could see a mile away. Just like a pie in the face, one laughs, but it's not what one wants to pay $10 for, plus parking, baby-sitter, gas, popcorn, etc.
Best to avoid, even on basic cable for free.
Its an average movie, its not that great but it isn't bad also. It has some funny moments but I expected a non stop laughing comedy but it wasn't. The story about John Farley a man Who as a kid was a little overweight and received the abuse of his gym teacher, returns to his hometown just to notice that his mother is dating the same gym teacher , he will try everything to break up the relationship. The cast is very good. Billy Bob Thornton in a role that fits him like a glove but that has been repeating for the last three movies. Susan Sarandon is good, her performance is quite regular. Sean William Scott was OK, a performance that wasn't developed to the 100%. Amy Poehler role as a neurotic and alcoholic manager was really funny. In general this is a movie that you will enjoy but its not the best option to spend a good time. Watch it if you don't have a better thing to do
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