Running Time: 87 minutes
Starring: Seann William Scott, Billy Bob Thornton, Susan Sarandon, Ethan Suplee, Amy Poehler
Directed By: Craig Gillespie
Rating: 2.5 out of 10
A guy has to deal with his mom dating his grade school gym teacher.
So if you thought I was going to take the high road and not comment on the title of this movie...you obviously don’t know me very well. Don’t worry folks, this film is not a documentary on Betty White’s first dildo. Nor is it about Pinocchio’s foray into the adult entertainment world. This film is about a grade school gym teacher called Mr. Woodcock. He physically and mentally abuses his young students. One of his tormented students named John Farley grows up and writes a self help book. John is back in town to receive the key to the city only to find out Mr. Woodcock is dating his mom and he will do anything and everything in his power to end it.
Two glaring problems with this movie is it isn’t relatable and more importantly it really isn’t funny. This movie would have been better suited and a more believable watch if it took place in the 60’s. I am sure there are some angry gym teachers out there but Mr. Woodcock is extreme for this era and not in the Doritos way. The film starts off and we are treated to Mr. Woodcock emotionally destroying some grade school students (including John.) He calls them idiots, embarrasses them, mocks them, makes them run laps, and anything else you can think of in the abuse column. I am pretty sure most viewers will understand quite quickly that Woodcock is an ass, but they will also understand he isn’t that funny to watch. The film shoots forward many years and we are presented with John as an adult. He is a calm and confident man, and he is touring the country promoting his self help book. His tour finds him back in his childhood town and confronting his worst fears. Mr. Woodcock, his childhood nemesis and tormentor is dating his mom. The comedy is pretty weak as it is generated from two main areas. The first comedic area is John tries to break the two of them up by any means necessary. This leads to some painfully dull scenes of John investigating Mr. Woodcock’s past including a white trash ex wife, and a scene where he has to break into Woodcock’s house. The second area is seeing Mr. Woodcock being a gruff and demanding person through every aspect of his life and it gets old very quick. The film struggles like the nerdy kid in gym class to get a laugh from the viewer.
The biggest sign that this film was going to tank was in its two lead characters. John Farley played by Seann William Scott might have turned in his weakest comedic performance ever (Yes that includes Dude Where’s my Car?) He is too reserved and calm playing a self help writer. Making Scott a straight laced lead was the wrong call and he seems lost not being able to let loose. Mr. Woodcock is played by Billy Bob Thornton and he also was a terrible fit for this film. He seems to love this type of character (Bad Santa, Bad News Bears.) He is an older, mean spirited man who picks on kids. While Bad Santa brought out Thornton’s genius, the Mr. Woodcock character brought out all his flaws. He doesn’t come across as funny in any way. He just comes across as old and crotchety. Ethan Suplee, Amy Poehler, and Susan Sarandon are all also in this if you are fans of theirs.
The film never gets there comedically. It usually just has John flipping out and not being able to follow what he preaches in his book. He competes with Woodcock in sports, money earned, and his mother’s affection and it was all a little too much for my taste. There is a funny scene where they wrestle each other but it is a bright spot in a movie full of bland writing. Because the film is lacking in the joke department it comes across as more of a drama. This dramatic story is one you will want to miss as it is nothing deep or original paving the way to a disastrous ending. Bottom line the film relies too much on Woodcock telling John he is banging his mom, and John being way to calm about hearing it.
Director Craig Gillespie’s first foray into the world of full length feature comedy was a bomb. It is true when the script is an unfunny mess (Michael Carnes, Josh Gilbert) it had no chance of succeeding no matter who directed it. The casting is okay but the characters are kept in check far too often. This film really needed to be rated R to work. When you hate someone like John hates Mr. Woodcock it is an unsatisfying conclusion to hear him say he is a meanie. The jokes are too spread apart making the viewer lose interest even though this film is only 87 minutes long.
I cannot recommend this film and while maybe it has an audience with the older crowd, its PG-13 rating makes it comparable to having to play dodge ball underhanded.
T Factor + If you like Billy Bob Thornton as an actor than this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you like crude humor than this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Rebound, Kicking and Screaming.