Mr. Woodcock commits the cardinal sin for comedies. It’s just not funny. While it offers laughs, they’re spaced erratically and not worth the payoff. The goofy slapstick and Billy Bob Thornton’s character are mildly amusing, but the rest of this film from director Craig Gillespie falls flat.
Thornton plays the abusive gym teacher Jasper Woodcock. His emotionless style is undoubtedly spot on, though this is the same character he continues to play repeatedly. He’s making a cliché of himself by continuing to take on the same roles in a different script.
Woodcock’s abuse leads to funny physical comedy as he tosses around both co-star Seann William Scott and his students. The flashbacks to Scott’s childhood deliver some of the best laughs, yet they disappear in the second half of the movie. Other plot devices that go nowhere include Scott’s character dumping Thornton’s whistle into a toilet. No laughs come from it.
Susan Sarandon has a dull role as Scott’s mother soon to marry Woodcock. This conflict creates a one-joke movie that doesn’t develop into anything more. Thornton and Scott battle it out as their personalities clash, though it’s hard to root for anyone other than Scott. Thornton’s mean streak makes him completely unlikeable, though funny. How Sarandon’s character falls for him remains a mystery buried in the script.
As sporadic as they may be, the jokes can be genuinely funny. The sexual dialogue skirts the PG-13 rating barely, and the film leaves no one alone in its wake. Senior citizens are tortured by Woodcock as much as his students.
The cast is a perfect mesh of actors, but the script doesn’t give them anything to work with. Physical comedy can only go so far, yet Mr. Woodcock consistently falls back on it unsuccessfully. The only positive to come from Mr. Woodcock is the ability to repeatedly say “Woodcock” and get away with it. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
A decent although flawed HD transfer greets Blu-ray fans. Flesh tones are annoying, either sitting deep into the reds or taking on a creepy green tint. The transfer is sharp, and there’s solid contrast coming from the black levels. The print is free of imperfections. Details are flat aside from a few brief scenes that deliver in close ups. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]
New Line goes for the overkill with a DTS-HD 7.1 mix. The audio hardly needs the additional channels, let alone the standard five. Minor uses of the surround channels such as the carnival are the only notable aspect of the audio. It’s perfectly serviceable, just not offering the epic 7.1 experience the format can provide. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]
Features begin with a stack of 10 deleted scenes, running 13 minutes. Most were properly left out of the film. The Making of Mr. Woodcock is purely promotional, lasting for 15 minutes. P.E. Trauma Tales has cast, crew, and a gym teacher discussing their experiences of grade school phys ed for 12 minutes. The latter stands as the best of the extras, though that’s not saying much. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]