Mr. Woodcock My Reviews 01 MAY 2008

Mr WoodcockLetting go of your past is hard…especially when it is dating your mom!

John Farley (Seann William Scott) is a successful motivational speaker and author of a bestselling self help book centered on letting go of the past. Following his countrywide success, his small farming hometown in the heart of Nebraska invites him home to accept the corn of the city. Unfortunately for John though, although he talks a good talk, he doesn’t exactly play a good game, being himself unable to let go of his past, particularly the suffering and humiliation he suffered at the hands of his junior high sadistic gym teacher, Mr. Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton).

Nevertheless, it is good to be home and see all the old sights and most importantly to once again visit with his beloved mother – only to recoil in horror when he learns that she is now in fact dating Mr. Woodcock. Unable to let the past go, John immediately steps in to battle against the seemingly unbeatable gym teacher from Hell in an effort to save his mom from Mr. Woodcock’s dastardly ways!

Mr. Woodcock is a 2007 comedy that is directed by fairly unknown Craig Gillespie and stars Seann William Scott, Billy Bob Thornton and Susan Sarandon in the lead roles.

Mr. Woodcock is a fairly interesting take on the woman caught between two men genre, but unfortunately this dynamic is really only the vehicle in which Gillepsie can push out the usual half-hearted sitcom-like comedic drivel that dozens of movies have brought us before. Most of the genuinely funny bits have already been spoilt by the trailer and the best part of the movie, namely the gym teacher from Hell sequence plays out right in the beginning of the movie, which ends up making Mr. Woodcock a bit of a bore to watch all the way through.

Of course, with a euphemistic title like Mr. Woodcock you know that this movie will feature tons of sex-related jokes and gags, but truly these are limited to those of a slightly lower intelligence level. It is a pity because beneath this average as hell movie, there actually lies quite a good story which is done a bit of injustice by the quality of the comedic script. Less reliance on physical comedy and perhaps some more puns might have worked a little better, but I hazard a guess that it is actually Seann William Scott’s performance that limits the movie’s comedic success, despite the fact that he portrays the goofy character so well – just way TOO well.

As it is, Seann William Scott is slowly but surely getting typecast as that goofy, loveable character, much in the vein of Ashton Kutcher, and he plays this role with unnatural ease. Unfortunately this type of role doesn’t always hold up so well for the duration of an entire movie, so you can’t help but start getting a little annoyed with the loveable simpleton. But that niggle aside, Sean does put in the perfect performance for the character and as such was a great pick. Surprisingly enough, Billy Bob Thornton is just as brilliant as the ‘army sergeant syndrome’ Jasper Woodcock, gym teacher from Hell. His sequences with the kids are probably the funniest in the whole movie and Billy Bob nails down the character perfectly. Of course, these two great performances means that we get great chemistry between Sean and Billy Bob, something essential in making this particular movie function.

Susan Sarandon plays the woman caught in the middle if Jasper’s affections as a suitor and John’s affections as her son and happens to play the only serious role in the entire movie. She does a solid job as the mom, but doesn’t do anything special so make the role stand out. And surprise, surprise, Ethan Suplee once again portrays the idiot, dim-witted and thick redneck type character but thankfully his annoyance is overridden by Amy Poehler’s superb hard-drinking and mean publisher character – cross her at your own risk!

Craig Gillespie does a decent enough job as the director, managing to portray the comedic sequences to great effect and presenting a solid visual experience. The dramatic, the action, the fun all of it is the sign of a competent director, but he does unfortunately do nothing to raise this movie up beyond the norm of quality for this genre and unfortunately this means he will remain firmly in that spot of unknown director.

Theodore Shapiro is the composer for Mr. Woodcock and is known for his work on these kind of comedies with some of his previous titles including The Devil Wears Prada, Fun with Dick and Jane, Idiocracy and You, Me and Dupree. He does a solid job and the fairly standard American pop/rock soundtrack blends in nicely with the story.

To sum it all up, you really can’t get more average than Mr. Woodcock. It really only has one or two genuinely funny bits (already spoiled by the trailer anyway) and somehow manages to feel as if it is dragging on forever. A lesson in mediocrity and really won’t entertain anyone apart from maybe a very, very, very bored male teenager. You can safely avoid this typical Seann William Scott outing which not even Billy Bob Thornton or Susan Sarandon stood a chance of saving in the first place.

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.