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  Publicity Stills of "Mr Woodcock"
(Courtesy from Warner Bros)

Genre: Comedy
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Seann William Scott, Susan Sarandon, Ethan Suplee, Melissa Sagemiller, Amy Poehler
RunTime: 1 hr 27 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.woodcockmovie.com/

Opening Day: 11 October 2007


John Farley has not always been the confident, best-selling author of self-help books he is today. It has taken him nearly two decades to recover from Mr Woodcock, the intimidating gym teacher from hell who made his high school years a living nightmare. Now Woodcock’s engaged to John’s mother, and John has to prove that his step-father-to-be is an abusive creep before its too late. Unfortunately, John’s plans keep backfiring. The more he tries to make Mr. Woodcock look bad, the worse he makes himself look. And the hole he’s digging himself into just keeps getting deeper. In the tradition of Meet The Parents, MR WOODCOCK is a hysterical screwball comedy of mismatched temperaments.

Movie Review:

“I don’t tolerate losers in my gymnasium.” With that one chilling statement, gym teacher Jasper Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton) lays down the law in his own little kingdom. And becomes the curse of poor, fat little boys like John Farley. He throws basketballs at his charges, cuts them down to size with his words and generally treats them like the dirt you find under your fingernails. As he solemnly intones, “The only thing that matters in this world is strength.” And if you’re weak and slow like Farley, well, Mr Woodcock will show you exactly what strength means. His opening monologue, delivered with a mad-eyed calm, must rank as one of the scariest (not to mention funniest) ever.

Fast forward 20 years, and little Farley (Sean William Scott) is all grown up and slimmed down. And he’s now peddling his own pseudo-philosophy in the shape of his self-help book, How To Get Past Your Past. He’s even invited back to his home town to accept an award for his achievements. Unfortunately, just as the tagline for the movie suggests, he’s about to find it’s hard to let go of your past when it’s dating your mom. That’s right: he goes home to find Mr Woodcock is now going out with his mom Beverly (Susan Sarandon). Worse, they’re about to get married! Farley then proceeds to ignore all of his own advice, and do his level best to break the couple up.

Oscar winners Thornton and Sarandon are essentially slumming it in this movie. The former is a magnetic, deadpan presence along the lines of Robert De Niro in Meet The Parents, and the movie is deservedly named after his character. Not to mention the fact that he gets all the best lines. Unfortunately, Thornton needs a better foil than Scott, who still hasn’t ventured all that far from his Stifler persona in American Pie. Once again, he has a hot mom in the shape of Sarandon, who can play a role like this in her sleep. And there are more than a fair number of puerile jokes on the this-asshole-is-banging-my-mom theme e.g. when Woodcock and Farley step into the wrestling ring in an attempt to settle old scores, Woodcock goes, “You must like getting spanked, Farley. I guess it runs in the family.” And just take a guess what happens when John hides in Woodcock’s room in his attempt to find incriminating evidence about him.

Nevertheless, the premise itself is amusing enough, and decently executed. Scott uses his charm well, though the trick is getting a bit old. Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler only has about 15 minutes of screen time, but is a standout as Farley’s scheming bitch of an agent Maggie. Her meltdown during Farley’s appearance on a talk show is particularly hilarious, and she easily outshines Scott. All in all though, it’s a movie that fails to live up to its early promise. Try and watch it on a Monday, when it’ll only cost you $7.50.

Movie Rating:

(Strong performances all round from Sarandon, Thornton and Poehler are dragged down by a predictable Scott - does not quite fulfill its potential, but still worth watching)

Review by Nicholas Yong

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