Billy Bob Thornton once again plays an asshole to garner laughs, but in Mr. Woodcock, even he's left begging for scraps. The movie, starring Seann William Scott, is a complete piece of crap, and a waste of time.
Scott stars as John Farley, a young man who has risen to fame on the success of a self-help book based on life experiences. His life experience: Mr. Woodcock, the worst of all gym teachers, who embarrassed, ridiculed and tormented him like no other. But when he comes home to find that his mother (Susan Sarandon) is dating his arch nemesis, he vows to break them up, no matter what the cost. Of course, Mr. Woodcock isn't just going to let him get away with it.
Mr. Woodcock never looked like it was going to offer much, but with Thornton in the role he does so well (after Bad Santa, Bad News Bears and even, I hate to say it, School for Scoundrels), I thought the film would offer up a few laughs. But aside from taking mild amusement in seeing little kids get beaten up with basketballs, Mr. Woodcock has absolutely nothing going for it. The funniest parts are seen in the trailers, and if you remember the trailers, you'll recall that even they weren't very funny.
The movie falls flat in so many areas, my friends and I couldn't even make it all the way through. From the rudimentary direction to the horrid editing, the movie looks and feels amateurish. Amazingly, the movie is directed by Craig Gillespie, who did the simple but excellent drama-comedy Lars and the Real Girl; these films are from two opposite ends of the spectrum, and I'm shocked that the same man did both. Whether it's because of shoddy scene choices or a result thereof, the editing looks like it was done by monkeys. The movie jumps around as if trying to escape the fact that there's nothing funny about it; Woodcock's flashbacks to bad experiences in gym classes are the only relative highlight, and they seem to be placed randomly if only to cut up the incredibly crappy modern day segments. As for the writing, Mr. Woodcock is about as funny as a piece of frozen poo in the middle of an ice lake... Hell, I'd rather sit and stare at that for an hour rather than sit through this agonizing mess.
I won't even touch on the acting, other than to say the actors clearly showed up for a paycheck and nothing more.
The ending is also incredibly inane. The screenwriters, or the studio, were apparently afraid to conclude things with one winner and one loser; instead, the movie finds a happy compromise that is about as uninteresting as endings get.
Don't get within a mile of Mr. Woodcock. It isn't funny, it isn't smart and will appeal to anyone, no matter how low your expectations.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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