Mr. Woodcock [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - New Line Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (17th February 2007).
The Film

What is it about middle school gym teachers? Is there something genetic that only makes sadistic apes want that particular job? With all of the talk these days about abuses of children in our schools - either by each other, by clergymen, or by themselves - why has no one in authority ever noticed that gym teachers have been humiliating and preying upon adolescents since the dawn of time? Conversely, the brutish gym teacher as a cinema archetype is a relatively new development, one that only goes back a few decades. But with that said, it seems impossible to portray that job description in any other manner. Is there any kind, helpful and compassionate gym teachers in either the real world, or the world of cinema? I have no empirical evidence that there are.
In "Mr. Woodcock", the 2007 comedy from director Craig Gillespie, Billy Bob Thornton plays the ultimate evil gym teacher: part drill instructor and part Marquis de Sade. The hook of the movie is that a twenty-something named John Farley (Seann William Scott) returns to his hometown to discover that his single mother is now engaged to Mr. Woodcock. Farley is mortified that the man who made his adolescence a living hell is now going to be his stepfather. Adding to his frustration is the fact that everyone in his small Nebraska hometown claims to love the self-help book that he wrote - even though they're all still complete losers. The book clearly hasn't worked. As if that wasn't enough, both Farley's mother and his (obligatory) new girlfriend are completely blind to Mr. Woodcock's extensive shortcomings, but they definitely notice every single time that John screws up.
John Farley goes on a one man mission to take Mr. Woodcock down a few pegs, a mission that backfires at every step of the way.
Thornton is funny, if one-dimensional, as Woodcock. This is a single-note character, but Thornton was born to sing that note. I can't really imagine anyone better suited for the role. Scott is suitably beleaguered as Farley, and Susan Sarandon is a good sport playing his mother. After witnessing Scott's obligatory "making an ass of himself in front of a large crowd scene" late in the film, Sarandon finally gets to emote, and then her character gets to actually do something for the last fifteen minutes of the movie. This trio of stars is supported by Amy Poehler as Farley's literary agent, and Melissa Sagemiller as 'The Girl'. Poehler's part is well-written, but she doesn't seem to get the jokes she's telling, and the performance comes off as stiff. Sagemiller's character is completely superfluous. Bill Macy shows up as well in the role of Woodcock's dad. Although he is only in one scene, it gives us a hint about how Mr. Woodcock (the younger) got to be the way he is. Although it is a funny scene, it is akin to showing us Anakin Skywalker as a little kid in "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (1999). In other words, it spoils the mystique completely.
The film is reasonably entertaining and mildly amusing, if predictable every step of the way. After Farley beats Woodcock at his own game (physical confrontation) their relationship inexplicably and suddenly changes; apparently they understand each other or something and it all ends up nice and cozy. No.

Video

Presented in the film's original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, this transfer is presented in 1080p 24/fps high-definition and has been created using VC-1 compression. Generally speaking the transfer is pretty damn good; considering it's a comedy film the photography is fairly rudimentary but presents the film with a 70's feel to it. The image is sharp and detail is very good especially in backgrounds, some close-ups appear a bit soft but that's not too distracting. The transfer is clean of most imperfections, grain is minimal and colors appear well rendered especially skin tones. Overall it's a solid effort from New Line.

Audio

A single English DTS-HD Master Audio track is included in 7.1, for a comedy the film has some depth with good use of ambient sounds as well as sound effects were Farley is replaying dialogue in his head. It's not aggressive or dynamic but the mix does a good job of bringing the viewer into the film. Dialogue is clear and distortion free, music is rendered well throughout the sound space and directional sounds feel natural and never out of place. Although the track lacks punch it's perfectly suited for a comedy such as this.

Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

New Line has included 2 featurettes, some deleted scenes and the film's theatrical trailer. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

Extra features include "The Making of Mr. Woodcock" which runs for 15 minutes 30 seconds, which is the typical promotional featurette. Interview clips with the cast are inter-cut with footage from the film shoot. No big revelations here, just marketing sound bytes aplenty.

Somewhat more interesting is "Phys Ed Trauma Tales" a featurette that runs for 11 minutes 59 seconds, in which the cast and crew talk about their childhood experiences in gym class. Most of them seem to agree with the first paragraph of my film review. Some real Phys. Ed. teachers are interviewed, and some archival 1950's stock footage is cut in, providing a history of the phenomenon known as gym class.

The extras include a collection of 10 deleted scenes, these include:

- "Extended Arrival at the Airport" runs for 1 minute 40 seconds, in which Farley is greeted by the mayor.
- "Woodcock, Beverly, and John Pull up Outside" runs for 42 seconds, Woodcock kisses Farley's mother goodnight.
- "John Sees Tracy at Practice" runs for 30 seconds, Farley drives around and thinks.
- "John in Medicine Cabinet" runs for 34 seconds, Farley finds Woodcock's Viagra.
- "Flashback to Young Farley in Shower" runs for 40 seconds, Farley remembers showering as a kid in gym class.
- "John Mom Tracy and Woodcock Go on Rides" runs for 42 seconds, The cast have fun at a carnival, except Farley.
- "Tracy Tells John to Read his Book" runs for 40 seconds, Farley's girlfriend confronts him.
- "John Must Get Them Back Together" runs for 40 seconds, Farley rides a bike and talks to his friend on the phone.
- "Throwing Eggs at the Parade" runs for 1 minute 28 seconds, Farley's friends throw eggs at a parade.
- "Original Hospital Drive In" runs for 4 minutes 43 seconds, A totally different cut of the last few minutes of the film, which ends with Mr. Woodcock screwing Farley's mom in the back seat of a car, and giving Farley the finger.

Also featured is the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 31 seconds.

Overall

The film and extras are review by James Teitelbaum , the technical specs are reviewed by Noor Razzak.

The Film: C+ Video: A Audio: B+ Extras: B- Overall: B

 


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