Saturday 2 January 2010

Movie Review: Mr. Woodcock (2007)

What is Susan Sarandon doing in this movie?

That is only one of many unfathomable questions thrown up by the horrible Mr. Woodcock. Other questions include:

Did screenwriters Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert really think that the 12th "woodcock" joke in the movie would still be funny? (they probably did).

How likely is it that a wimpy preppy author would defeat a robust and macho gym teacher at wrestling? (only in the imagination of Grade Z writers like Carnes and Gilbert).

Is small-time Director Craig Gillespie capable of handling actors like Sarandon and Billy Bob Thornton? (no).

As for the plot: John Farley (Seann William Scott) is a young and successful self-help author who goes back to his hometown in rural Nebraska to accept an award, only to find out that, to his horror, his mother Beverly (Sarandon) is in a romantic relationship with Mr. Woodstock (Thornton), the sadistic high school gym teacher. Farley proceeds to do his best to destroy his mother's happiness.

Once the plot elements are in place, Mr. Woodcock offers very little that is unpredictable, including Farley's slob of a former high school friend and the bright-eyed girl that he had a crush on.

And it says a lot about the failure of the film that Woodcock is an immediately more likable character than the bland Farley, although the film even manages to flub the basic old values / fake values premise that would have at least provided some weight to the proceedings.

Mr. Woodcock may have been trying to comment on the gullibility of self-help consumers, but given the smarts that he displays, it is also a real stretch to believe that Farley could have written down a sandwich order, let alone a best-seller about "letting go".

The only watchable thing in this wooden flop is Amy Poehler in a small role as Farley's driven but boozy publicist -- she steals every scene that she's in, but she's in too few scenes to save this one-joke bore.

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