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Craig Gillespie
Billy Bob Thornton, Seann William Scott, Susan Sarandon, Amy Poehler, Ethan Suplee, Melissa Sagemiller
Writing Credits:
Michael Carnes, Josh Gilbert

Letting Go Of Your Past Is Hard ... Especially When It's Dating Your Mom.

Billy Bob Thornton, Seann William Scott, and Susan Sarandon star in the outrageous comedy Mr. Woodcock. Scott stars as John Farley, a self-help author who returns to his hometown only to discover that his mother (Sarandon) has fallen in love with his old high school nemesis, Mr. Woodcock (Thornton) - the gruff, no-nonsense gym teacher who had put him through years of mental and physical humiliation. Determined to prevent history from repeating itself, John sets out to stop his mother from marrying the man who had made life miserable for him and his classmates. Mr. Woodcock also features a strong supporting cast including Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live) and Ethan Suplee (My Name is Earl).

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$8.761 million on 2231 screens.
Domestic Gross
$25.628 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $28.98
Release Date: 1/15/08

• Deleted/Alternate Scenes
• “The Making of Mr. Woodcock” Featurette
• “PE Trauma Tales” Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
• Sneak Peeks


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Mr. Woodcock (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 9, 2008)

While I don’t know if it’d qualify as “Oedipal”, but 2007’s Mr. Woodcock offers a take on a similar boy vs. father figure story. We meet John Farley as a seventh grader (Kyley Baldridge). A tubby boy, he suffers from the abuse of sadistic gym teacher Mr. Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton). Granted, Woodcock treats all of his students poorly, but he appears to reserve particular venom for John.

We then zip ahead 13 years to encounter John as an adult (Seann William Scott). He turned his unpleasant experience with Woodcock – and other childhood problems - into a best-selling self-help book. John returns to Nebraska to get an honor from his hometown and also to check in with his mom (Susan Sarandon).

When John gets home, he encounters an unpleasant surprise. It turns out that his mom is dating Woodcock, a fact that conjures up all sorts of harsh memories. The rest of the movie follows John’s attempts to sabotage the relationship.

If forced to find positives in Woodcock, I’d concentrate on two. First, we get a moderately amusing cameo from Bill Macy – the one from Maude, not the one from Fargo - as Woodcock’s elderly father. The old man proves even more offensive and horrible than his son, and Macy makes the most of his brief appearance.

In addition, Sarandon looks absolutely amazing here. I swear that she’s actually getting better looking as she ages. It seems hard to believe that she remains such a babe into her sixties.

And after that, the positive thoughts fade. Not that I think Woodcock lacks potential, but the filmmakers make such crude, ham-fisted hash of the material that nary a laugh can emerge. Most of the gags take obvious, lowest-common-denominator paths and produce more grimaces than smiles. Honestly, other than the Macy cameo, I can’t think of a single moment where I almost felt amused; the rest seemed unpleasant and unfunny.

In Woodcock, we find the sort of role Thornton should be able to play in his sleep. And maybe he did – that might be why Woodcock never becomes anything more than a cartoon villain. I usually regard Thornton as a highly reliable actor who can take mediocre material and make it work, but he doesn’t do anything good with Woodcock. The character isn’t even fun to hate. Instead of Thornton’s usual lovable rogue, he’s just a one-dimensional jerk with no memorable facets.

Scott doesn’t do any better. I liked his work as the obnoxious and crass Stifler in American Pie, and he even managed to help make the Dukes of Hazzard movie moderately entertaining. I guess Scott needs to play characters with some form of intensity about them, though, for when he takes on an ordinary guy part like Farley, he completely blends into the scenery. Scott fails to create an impression in the part and actually leaves a void at the film’s center.

My main problem with Mr. Woodcock comes from its sheer lack of creativity or cleverness. Even moments that should produce easy laughs like Farley’s silly self-help platitudes can’t jump off the screen. There’s a framework for a decent movie here, but the bland presentation makes it a slow, boring 88 minutes. Try to stay awake as the flick winds towards its utterly predictable – and completely patronizing – conclusion.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

Mr. Woodcock appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Across this board, this was a decent but unexceptional transfer.

Sharpness created my main concerns, as I thought the presentation appeared a bit soft at times. Though the flick never looked terribly imprecise, it lacked the detail I expected. No issues with jagged edges, shimmering or edge enhancement occurred, and I also failed to detect any source flaws, though I felt things could be a little grainier than usual.

As for the colors, the movie went with a fairly warm palette to accentuate the homespun Midwestern setting. The hues came across as reasonably well-developed within those constraints. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows showed decent delineation. This was a watchable presentation and that’s about it.

On the other hand, I encountered a bit of a pleasant surprise from the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This sort of comedy doesn’t usually offer much breadth, but the soundfield proved to be pretty engaging. Various environmental elements – such as in the gym or at the fair – used the different channels to create a good sense of place, and we also got solid stereo music. The track failed to really come at us to a strong degree, but it moved well and opened things up in a pretty lively manner.

Audio quality was also positive. Effects proved quite robust, as components like the exaggerated thump of a bouncing basketball offered impressive bass response. The other elements were clear and vivid as well, and music demonstrated nice depth and range. Speech seemed concise and natural, with no edginess or other concerns. This was a generally impressive soundtrack.

Don’t expect a lot of extras for Woodcock. The Making of Mr. Woodcock runs 15 minutes, 30 seconds, as it mixes movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from screenwriters Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert, producer Bob Cooper, stunt coordinator Gary Jensen, wrestling advisor Tony Flores, stuntman Buddy Joe Hooker, stunt double Kanan Hooker, costume designer Wendy Chuck, and actors Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Poehler, Seann William Scott, Ethan Suplee, Kylee Baldridge, Melissa Sagemiller, Kurt Fuller, Jacob Davich, Alec George and Susan Sarandon.

We learn a little about the characters and story as well as cast and performances, some stunts, costumes, and visual design. Should you expect much more than the average promotional featurette here? No, though “Making” does have its moments. I especially like the bits about the wrestling stunts, as the present some interesting tidbits. There’s not a lot of meat here, but it’s worth a look.

Another featurette called PE Trauma Tales lasts 12 minutes and features Poehler, Sagemiller, Sarandon, Thornton, Cooper, Jensen, Davich, Scott, Suplee, Carnes, Gilbert, Baldridge, Flores, PE teacher Terry Sobel, set costumers Brad Holtzman and Toby Bronson, stand-in Jessica Schwartz, additional video assist operator Owen Taylor, extra JD Piche, actors Jennifer Aspen, Zia Harris, Stephen Monroe Taylor, Brad Beyer and Evan Helmuth, and still photographer Tracy Bennett. Those involved with the flick discuss their painful PE memories, while Sobel talks about his experiences as a teacher. He’s not as intense as Woodcock, but he seems pretty rigid. Anyway, this is a moderately interesting piece, as it’s fun to hear about the PE thoughts.

10 Deleted/Alternate Scenes fill a total of 12 minutes, 47 seconds. These include “Extended Arrival at Airport” (1:41), “Woodcock, Beverly and John Pull Up Outside House” (0:42), “John Sees Tracy at Practice” (0:41), “John in Medicine Cabinet” (0:32), “Flashback to Young Farley in Shower” (0:40), “John, Mom, Woodcock and Tracy Go on Rides” (0:41), “Tracy Tells John to Read His Book” (0:42), “John Must Get Them Back Together” (0:57), “Throwing Eggs at the Parade” (1:28) and “Original Hospital Drive-In” (4:41). Most of these prove to be entirely inconsequential, though we do learn the secret of Woodcock’s sexual prowess, and I like the extended “Airport” because it offers more of the amusing Kurt Fuller. Otherwise, these are pretty forgettable clips.

A few ads launch the disc. We get promos for Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show, Be Kind Rewind, Harold & Kumar 2, Full of It, Grace, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and Rush Hour 3. In addition, these appear in the Sneak Peeks area, and the disc also throws in the theatrical trailer for Woodcock.

Despite the presence of some fine actors and a decent premise, Mr. Woodcock proves almost wholly devoid of laughs. Indeed, it bores much more than it entertains, as it plods through its relatively brief running time. The DVD provides surprisingly involving audio, but both picture and extras are fairly mediocre. I can’t find much here to earn a recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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