Monday, September 8, 2008

Mr. Woodcock

Billy Bob Thornton gets under my skin sometimes. He has been in some excellent movies and performed challenging roles to perfection. Even Bad Santa had many redeeming qualities. But alas, Thornton seems to have a need for tasteless roles that leave you wondering what the heck he was thinking. Mr. Woodcock is not different. Thornton plays the title role of Mr. Woodcock, the Gym Teacher from hell. To make matters worse, he is paired with an actor that also seems type-cast in tasteless movies...Seann William Scott, whose claim to fame is the tacky character Steve Stifler from the American Pie films. To win a prize for films that lack class, I guess you couldn’t pick a better pair. Oddly enough, I have very little use for Susan Sarandon. I personally feel that actors should stick to acting and leave the politics to the professionals. Sarandon seems to feel it is her purpose in life to tell the rest of us how we should live. That sort of jades me towards her as an artist. However, I try to be objective when discussing performances and must admit that she was the only bright spot in this otherwise weak formulaic movie. Sarandon character, Beverly, brings a little bit of credibility to her role and provided us a character with a shred of decency and dignity. I guess any comic movie needs a “straight man.” I thought her performance was the only one that had a thread of believability. The rest of the characters were one-dimensional and the acting was equally flat. That includes another actor with a small part, that I actually like...Ethan Suplee, who plays Nedderman. I like Suplee, but his character in this film fell way short. Without giving away the plot of the movie (if there is a plot to give away)...this film is an attempt at taking a comic look at self improvement. A young man (John Farley) who is tortured by his gym teacher (Mr. Woodcock) draws on his childhood experiences to write a book about overcoming your past. Upon his return to his hometown, he discovers that his mother is romantically involved with his childhood nemesis. This leads to a series of schemes that break every rule in his book. As a result, Farley alienates everyone around him, and in a strange way experiences growth. The story would work better if it were written better. Instead, we are given a bunch of visual gags, toilet humor and cheap dialogue. The entire plot failed to deliver...building on a foundation like this already had the movie on unstable footing. The dialogue was not believable, contained a great deal of drivel and was not at all intellectually stimulating. The characters were flat and predictable. I really didn’t care about any of include Mrs. Farley (Susan Sarandon) whose character was the only one that I could believe. In a nutshell, the writing was horrific on every level.


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