Despite Poehler’s Wit, ‘Mr. Woodcock’ Underwhelms With Wasted Thornton, Sarandon Talent

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Average: 2 (1 vote) Oscarman rating: 2/5CHICAGO – Just from eyeing the “Mr. Woodcock” movie poster, you could suspect exactly what the movie will be. Just 90 minutes later, your suspicions would be confirmed.

Billy Bob Thornton in Mr. Woodcock
Billy Bob Thornton in “Mr. Woodcock”.
Photo courtesy of IMDb

You’ll shake your head, have a heavy sigh and release an expression that says: “Yeah. That’s about right.”

Set in Nebraska, the story focuses on John Farley (played by Seann William Scott). He’s a successful self-help author who comes back to his hometown to be awarded with the “corn cob key” at the annual corn festival.

Farley finds that his widowed mother (played by an utterly forgettable Susan Sarandon whose performance seems to mirror “In the Valley of Elah”) has started dating. In fact, she recently engaged his seventh-grade gym teacher: Mr. Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton).

Farley begins to relive his painful and humiliating memories of Mr. Woodcock. He decides to try to break up the relationship in a very formulaic way with a little help from his friend (Ethan Suplee).

While the film is overly boring, the few bits of humor there are come from pure physical comedy. At some points, you forget you’re watching a feature-length motion picture and start to think it’s an extended episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Susan Sarandon and Seann William Scott in Mr. Woodcock
Susan Sarandon and Seann William Scott in “Mr. Woodcock”.
Photo courtesy of IMDb

While Thornton excels as a malicious junior high gym teacher, taken out of that environment his expressions and mannerisms can be described only as listless.

A relative newcomer to the world of feature films, director Craig Gillespie tries to pack much too much into the movie’s 90-minute frame including but not limited to a love interest for Farley that is in all of two scenes and forgotten about halfway through the film.

The movie, however, does have some bright spots. Amy Poehler was delightfully wicked as Farley’s alcoholic literary agent. You were in for a good laugh or two every time she came on the screen. The story could have used more of her and less of Ethan Suplee.

Seann William Scott and Amy Poehler in Mr. Woodcock
Seann William Scott and Amy Poehler in “Mr. Woodcock”.
Photo courtesy of IMDb

Suplee must have filmed this during a lunch break from “My Name is Earl” because it seemed he didn’t have time to immerse himself into another character.

You can tell Scott is trying to get out of the enormous shadow he created with Steve Stiffler in “American Pie”. Scott played Farley with a surprising amount of charm and maturity. Though he didn’t quite get it done in “Mr. Woodcock,” I wouldn’t be surprised if one day he’s seen as a bona fide leading man.

Overall, this film seemed to be a massive waste of the talents of Thornton and Sarandon. Even though Scott and Poehler did their best, the movie still left me with the feeling I had when I first saw the poster: underwhelmed.

By Evan O’Donnell
Staff Writer

© 2007 Evan O’Donnell,

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