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Mr. Woodcock
Time to return to drama, Billy Bob
Mr. Woodcock
Billy Bob Thornton Stars in "Mr. Woodcock."
OPENING WEEKEND: $14,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $50,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

October 6th, 2006: While growing up, John Farley (Seann William Scott) and many of his classmates were tormented by a sadistic gym teacher named Mr. Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton). Things have since turned out quite well for John, who has gone on to become a successful self-help author and motivational speaker. When he hears that his hometown community wants to reward him for his achievements, he returns thinking that his painful memories of torment are now buried and long behind him. To his surprise, Mr. Woodcock, the man that humiliated him for years, is now dating his widowed mother Beverly (Susan Sarandon). Even worse, the two lovebirds are engaged to be married. Determined not to let Mr. Woodcock ruin his life again, John sets out to prevent the nuptials from taking place by sabotaging his former teacher any way he can.

What to Expect: For Craig Gillespie, Mr. Woodcock will mark his directing debut, but things have not exactly gone very smoothly for the first-time filmmaker. The movie was originally scheduled for release early in 2006, but was delayed after test screenings went terribly. Approximately one-third of the script has since been rewritten. The cast and crew were called back for re-shoots with David Dobkin, the director of The Wedding Crashers, now at the helm. A whole 19 days were added to the schedule, which seems like a monstrous number when compared to the original shoot, which lasted only 30 days back in early 2005. Reportedly, more than half the film has been altered in an attempt to make it funnier. The good news for Gillespie is that he gets to keep his credit as director, even after losing his job. The bad news for everyone else is that if Dobkin had accomplished something extraordinary with the re-shoots, Iím sure he would have wanted to get some credit.

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Unfortunately, it would appear that Mr. Woodcock is another lame imitation in a long line of comedies about similarly dysfunctional family merges. Itís a close imitation of the pathetic Monster-in-Law, which was undeniably a pale shadow of Meet the Parents and of its thoroughly less amusing sequel, Meet the Fockers. Following in the footsteps of Robert DeNiro and Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon will be the Oscar winning elderly statesman in Mr. Woodcock. Unlike those two, however, her character will probably not be the cruel one. No, Mr. Woodcock will steer the material away from the catfight that was in Monster-in-Law and back to the old-fashioned clash between two generations of angry men. The enormously talented Billy Bob Thornton provides some shred of hope in this mess as Mr. Woodcock. Heís proven to be amazing at playing louses of this sort, but this may be one part too many, even for him. After Bad Santa, Bad News Bears, and School for Scoundrels, what else is there left for him to prove in this genre? Sean William Scott, on the other hand, has been a permanent resident of these types of comedies ever since he had his breakthrough in American Pie. Admittedly, he still manages to keep his performances quite funny on a regular basis. He practically stole the show in American Wedding, even after already having treated viewers to Stiflerís antics in two previous entries in the series. Thereís definitely some potential here in the Thornton-Scott combo, particularly with Scott as the mild-mannered one.

Word from the screenings prior to the re-shoots is that Scottís character basically spends most of the time either fighting or trying to sabotage Mr. Woodcock. You can rest assured that there is going to be plenty of physical and confrontational humor. In one scene, Scottís character forgets to put on his cup so Mr. Woodcock punishes him by hitting him in the groin with a meter stick. In another scene, Scottís character has broken into Mr. Woodcockís home in hopes of finding some incriminating evidence. He is soon interrupted when Mr. Woodcock and his mother enter. He hides in the bedroom, under the bed, but is forced to listen to nightmarish groans and feel a face-full of mattress when the couple begins to have sex right on top of him. If you havenít seen stuff like this before, then Mr. Woodcock may hold some surprises for you.

Now, the only way that this sort of material ever works is when the more composed guy of the two stoops down to the level of the less refined one. In a bad comedy, this typically plays out in the most frustrating fashion Ė rather than simply explain the situation, a character devises the most elaborate plots that only make things more difficult for him and for everyone else. By the end, he looks like the villain and has to make a heartfelt apology of some sorts before everything wraps up in a nice happy ending. But thatís the inevitable path that a film like this must follow in order to have at least a 90-minute running time. Well, if those are your expectations then Mr. Woodcock is not likely to disappoint.

In Conclusion: True story: I once had a gym teacher in elementary school whose name was Mr. Gaynerd. I think that he wins hands down for best name. Thatís why Mr. Woodcock does strike as not only a good title, but also a relatable one. In fact, the premise itself is strong in parts. Most people probably had some gym teacher in their lives whom they hated, laughed at, or were annoyed by. Thereís good material here, but it sounds like between the re-writes and the re-shoots there may not be much of a good movie left over. Truthfully, it is likely to be better than it was when it screened originally, but I doubt that Dobkin was able to save this flick. Mr. Woodcock will try to ride on its clever name and premise, but it is likely to fall under the lame physical humor and mean-spiritedness of its characters. Some cutesy excuse of an ending will not make it any better either.

Similar Titles: Monster-in-Law, Meet the Fockers, Anger Management
September 14th, 2007 (wide)
January 15th, 2008 (DVD)

New Line Cinema

Craig Gillespie

Billy Bob Thornton, Seann William Scott, Susan Sarandon, Ethan Suplee, Amy Poehler, Emily Wagner, Evan Helmuth, Brent Briscoe

Total: 46 vote(s).


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Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, thematic material, language and a mild drug reference.







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