Mr Woodcock

Mr Woodcock


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

If you suffered the trailer for Mr Woodcock, wild horses wouldn’t drag you to the movie. Ironically, the film is better than this. Not good. Not even worth seeing. But better.

John Farley (Seann William Scott) is the new big thing in publishing with his book Letting Go: How To Get Past Your Past. When he was a kid in the corn capital of Nebraska, the gym teacher at high school was a fascist bully by the name of Mr Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton), who took particular delight in humiliating and torturing fatties. John was top of this list.

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Now a slimmed down, handsome twentysomething local hero, John breaks off his current book tour to collect the Corn Cob Key (most prestigious honour) in his home town, only to discover that his mom (Susan Sarandon) is dating Mein Kampf.

And so it gets personal. John bumps into his old classmate Nedderman (Ethan Suplee) at the pizza parlour and together plan Woodcock’s demise – not literally, but socially, expose the bastard for what he was (sadistic child hater) and is (slimy, two timing, sexual predator). There is a problem, however. John and Nedderman are amateurs in the dirt digging business and their schemes tend to miss, or back, fire.

As a feet-up no brainer, Mr Woodcock (the movie) is not lacking in laughs. Thornton’s timing, with lines like “a lot of losers out there, I guess,” is immaculate. Scott controls his tendency to overact (American Pie thrice) and manages those embarrassing moments, when things go pear shaped, with buttock-clenching dignity. Sarandon is playing a doting mom with the IQ of a tea towel, which is a first for her. She walks through it, smiling her head off, wondering (possibly) whether rumpy with Billy Bob, after he had shouted at geriatrics in the swimming pool, is enough to sustain life as she knew it.

Of course, in the long standing tradition of MOR liteweight comedy, sentiment oozes through the gaps between testicle crunching and mom devotion, which places it on the safe shelf a long way from Bad Santa, Thornton’s darker side. What they missed, the producers and scriptwriters and product gurus at Planet Fun is a different movie altogether about a book tour with a naïve self help author and an off-the-wall alcoholic PR (Saturday Night Live regular Amy Poehler). There are snatches of what this might have been, with Poehler stealing every scene, before returning to corn country where “sorry is for criminals and screw-ups” and Jasper Woodcock receives the Educator Of The Year award to rapturous applause.

Reviewed on: 17 Oct 2007
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Mr Woodcock packshot
A successful author returns home to discover that his high school nemesis is dating his mom.
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Director: Craig Gillespie

Writer: Michael Carnes, Josh Gilbert

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Seann William Scott, Susan Sarandon, Amy Poehler, Melissa Sagemiller, Ethan Suplee, Jacob Davich, Kyley Baldridge, Alec George, Joseph Michael Sargent, M C Gainey

Year: 2007

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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