A Gym Slip for Thornton and Scott
Maybe at some point in its genesis "Mr. Woodcock" was a funny idea for a movie, to be honest the idea of a kid tormented by his gym teacher returning home an adult to find his widowed mum engaged to that teacher is not bad, but by the time "Mr. Woodcock" got released any ingenuity was lost. Now I am not saying that "Mr. Woodcock" is unfunny, it certainly has a few laughs but those laughs end up few and far between in amongst a lot of serious dross. The knock on effect of this is we have a comedy where Billy Bob Thornton and Seann William Scott basically try and out do each other not only when it comes to their characters but also in making the jokes work.
As a young boy John Farley (Seann William Scott - The Dukes of Hazzard) dreaded gym class because gym teacher Jasper Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton - Love Actually) seemed to take sadistic pleasure in making everyone's life a misery. Now 13 years later and a successful author of a self help book John is heading home for the "Cornival" and to be honoured by the town with the Corn Cob Key. But his return home is blighted when he discovers his mother is carrying on with Mr. Woodcock and they are planning to marry, making his worst nightmares come true.
So as already mentioned I like the actual idea for "Mr. Woodcock" with Farley returning home having become a successful adult to find his mum carrying on with the teacher who made his life a living hell. But sadly this means that the storyline naturally becomes all about Farley trying to split the evil Mr. Woodcock and his mum up and often coming off worse in trying to do so. You can forget all the nonsense about Farley becoming an author of a popular self help book, although it does allow for the wonderful Amy Poehler to liven things up as Maggie his agent. And you can forget all the back story about Farley's painful gym lessons as everything revolves around the rivalry between Farley and Mr. Woodcock in the present.
Because for the most "Mr. Woodcock" ends up all about this rivalry you expect plenty of edgy comedy as Farley tries to put an end to the relationship but there is not an edgy gag in the entire movie. It's hard to laugh at such nonsense as a barber taking a chunk of hair out of Farley's head or the corn cob eating contest because they are weak and ultimately daft. And because it's this over and over again as Farley tries to stop things only for the smug Mr. Woodcock coming out smelling of roses that it becomes boring and repetitive. There are some good moments, some scenes which do get you laughing but these are vastly numbered by the dull humour and some jokes which are just not funny.
Because the humour is for the most dull it makes the performances appear worse and to be honest both Billy Bob Thornton and Seann William Scott are quite unmemorable as Mr. Woodcock and Farley. Plus with them being the rivals it does often feel like it's a game of one upmanship between the actors rather than their characters. The rest of the cast which includes Susan Sarandon, Amy Poehler and Ethan Suplee are just as forgettable with only Poehler really delivering anything close to being memorable and that is purely because her character comes across as being extreme next to the others.
What this all boils down to is that "Mr. Woodcock" whilst not unfunny is a rather dull comedy. It has a good idea for a fun story but what gets served up, the various obvious gags as Farley wages war on Mr. Woodstock end up being both repetitive and boring.