Mr. Woodcock

Mr. Woodcock (2007)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Seann William Scott, Susan Sarandon
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Theatrical Trailer

In 2007 Craig Gillespie delivered two films, one was a critically acclaimed film called "Lars And The Real Girl" and the other being the comedy "Mr. Woodcock". While at first glance, the film appears to have something going for it, featuring a very talented cast and what could be an interesting premise, it eventually goes off into familiar territory.

The film starts off introducing us to a junior high school gym class where John Farley (later played by Sean William Scott) is tormented by the most sadistic and cruel gym instructors ever, Mr. Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton). From the moment they met and John couldn't catch a basketball and was forced to run laps while Mr. Woodcock further belittled him, the film gets the point across rather quickly. Mr. Woodcock becomes responsible for some very low self esteem in John.

But, years later it appears, John has faced his demons and has become a very successful author of a self help book called 'Letting Go' which is all about escaping the demons from your past. He is currently on a book signing tour with his alcoholic publicist Maggie Hoffman (Amy Poehler), when Maggie reveals to him that he has been selected to go back to his small farm town to receive the 'Corn Cob Key', an award he is more than thrilled to rise to the occasion to accept. But arriving back to his hometown won't be as wonderful as he envisions.

When he arrives back home to greet his widowed mother Beverly (Susan Sarandon) they discuss the fact that she has been dating someone, and as it turns out, that someone is John's arch nemesis Jasper Woodcock. This sends John into a self-contemplative journey through his past and he wanders around town with his new found fame meeting up with old friends and trying to come to terms with his mother's choice of a companion. Eventually he fails, and with the help of his idiotic friend Nedderman (Ethan Suplee from 'My Name Is Earl'), he decides to not walk the walk of his passive self-help books and aggressively do everything he can to prevent the relationship from going any further, especially when he finds out a marriage could take place.

While I certainly am a fan of Billy Bob Thornton, and he does a fine job as the cruel and merciless Mr. Woodcock, this film simply falls apart from the inside out due to the fact that it just doesn't really make you laugh. Although a few scenes certainly have shock value, the uninspired writing and the general predictability of this dark comedy take it places you may find pretty stupid. While it's obvious some of the talent here is in paycheck mode that isn't really an excuse to churn out low quality product, but that's what they have done with 'Mr. Woodcock'. The problem is it just didn't make me laugh, it just made me uncomfortable. I certainly didn't expect much when I started watching the movie, and my expectations were met. This film is basically a waste of time to watch, and I suggest skipping it.

The transfer itself is generally quite solid, featuring an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The colors are actually quite solid, and we have a steady and intentional film grain that is very filmlike and actually quite detailed, although in a few dark scenes I did notice a slight lack of detail. Still, overall, this film looks quite good and has a very sharp picture. All of the items in the background pop out and the skin tones and general color are quite vibrant. A decent looking presentation.

The sound is also quite good, featuring a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and a 5.1 DTS track. They both sound great, although the 7.1 track is the one to go for. The surround effects are generally pretty low key, but the film has quite a few scenes where the ambience in the environment and the background in a restaurant actually come through quite clearly, and the music never drowns out the dialogue. They have gone the extra mile as far as audio is concerned.

Predictably the special features are nothing significant and are generally not really needed. But what we do have is a 'Making Of' featurette that is all slaps on the back and runs about fifteen minutes. You've seen this type of feature a thousand times. We also have 'P.E. Trauma Tales' that is just filler. Cast and crew talk about nightmare gym stories from their past while they ply stock footage of boys at gym class from the fifties. I don't really have many, but I do recall climbing that rope all the way to the ceiling could be a real pain. We also have some deleted scenes that certainly add nothing to the film and the film trailer. But all of the features are presented in high definition, even the deleted scenes, which is nice to see.

So, fans of this film have a very well put together package, but I certainly expect more from Billy Bob Thornton and Susan Sarandon. Still, the features being in high def earns it some points in the quality department, and the picture and sound are actually quite solid. Technically this is a very good Blu-ray, so pick it up if you like the film. If not, perhaps you may just want to give it a rent, or skip it entirely.