The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday December 4th

Inadequate 'Woodcock' leaves audience hanging

The title might promise absurd humor with an outrageous climax, but instead, "Mr. Woodcock" goes soft with a predictable plot and lame sentiment. John Farley (Seann William Scott), who spent his childhood as an overweight loser humiliated in gym class, is now a successful author of a self-help book worthy of the coveted Oprah's Book Club. When his hometown in Nebraska wishes to honor his latest achievements, Farley flies home to receive his award and surprise his mother (Susan Sarandon). Of course the real surprise is that Farley's mother is marrying his former gym teacher, Mr. Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton). Woodcock is the sadistic sociopath who tortured Farley and his classmates for years, leading him to write his book about letting go of painful pasts. With the source of his emotional scarring engaged to his mom, Farley is knocked clear off his self-help soapbox and vows to break up the couple at any cost. Thornton does nail the role of Woodcock with his deadpan stares and fierce one-liners. The majority of the film's laughs come from flashbacks of gym class when he torments his prepubescent pupils. But audiences who sat through "Bad News Bears" or "School for Scoundrels" don't need another mediocre comedy to convince them that Thornton can play a hard-ass. And when the "Mr. Woodcock" jokes are pumped dry, there is little left in regards to situational humor. Nothing creative or sensational is found in Farley's attempts to defame the evil gym teacher. Even gags like Farley hiding under the bed while Woodcock and his mother enjoy "alone time" are too controlled and expected to get a rise out of anyone. The comedic talents of Thornton, Sarandon, and Saturday Night Live's Amy Poehler are wasted in an unambitious plot that sticks to safe jokes and ends with forced sentiment. The cast of decent actors and the outlandish storyline promise humor, but unfortunately "Woodcock" is nothing but a big tease. Contact the Diversions Editor at


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