Rated PG-13; Directed by Craig Gillespie; Starring Seann William Scott, Billy Bob Thornton, Susan Sarandon, Amy Poehler
Some movies disappoint you because they have wonderful ideas but blow them in execution. Other movies just give you no reason to have high expectations in the first place. That way you don’t end up disappointed. Mr. Woodcock is certainly in the second category. Let’s just say that the few laughs didn’t make up for the remaining unfunniness.
The film starts with the laughs. Billy Bob Thornton is the high school PE teacher from hell. Whether he’s telling an asthmatic student to run 10 laps and to “lose the asthma” or slamming his students with basketballs, Mr. Woodcock is not the kind of man who endears himself to his students. Humiliating the students, especially the less athletic, Mr. Woodcock picks on one young student, John Farley, with deadpan glee. Thirteen years later Farley (Seann William Scott), now a successful self-help author of a book entitled “Letting Go: How to Get Past Your Own Past,” has to face that past when his widowed mother (Susan Sarandon) announces that she has a new boyfriend – the same Mr. Woodcock that terrorized young Farley.
So we get the set up and then we have to sit through the rest of the movie watching scene after scene of Farley trying to split his mom and Mr. Woodcock up. It’s embarrassing how often the humor relies on the idea of Farley’s mom having wild sex with Woodcock. It’s not so funny after the 14th time. It’s also not too funny watching Farley lose his cool time and time again. Watching characters behave stupidly time and again wears you down. It’s even worse when the plot has everything come up with a sugar-coated ending. It hurt my brain.
Seann William Scott starts out fine, but he couldn’t find a way to make the jokes funny once the movie went for a big case of the stupids. I don’t know if anyone could have been funny. Thornton has the fun role and he does a good job. Still, he’s stuck in a movie that can’t take advantage of his skill at playing the macho creep. The one who loses out the most is Susan Sarandon. She is wasted in the part of the mother.
The movie lacks the script, pacing, and style that might have made something of the concept. Yet, why even be disappointed? You have to have high expectations to be disappointed.