Review in a Hurry: His name is Mr. Woodcock! Get it? Woodcock! Isn't that friggin' hilarious? If that gets you guffawing till milk spews out your nose, you're probably the intended audience for this wimpy comedy about a sadistic gym teacher. The rest of us would rather suffer wedgies and pushups than suit up for this one.
The Bigger Picture: Billy Bob Thornton has gone from bad Santa (Bad Santa) to bad coach (Bad News Bears) to bad teacher (School for Scoundrels) and now to bad gym teacher. Thornton knows how to play a snarky, intimidating bastard—one you wouldn't want as your P.E. coach, much less your new stepdad. Though Mr. Woodcock (tee-hee!) starts with that strong enough premise, it never bulks up the plot with comedic muscle and weighs in as a 98-pound weakling.
Bestselling self-help author John Farley (an unconvincing Seann William Scott) returns to his small hometown, where he's "corn-gratulated" with the Corn Cob Key at the burg's annual Cornival Festival. To his horror, John discovers his widowed mom, Beverly (Susan Sarandon) has fallen in love with Woodcock (snicker!), who tortured him and other kids throughout middle school.
Ignoring pleas from book publicist Maggie (Amy Poehler), John extends his stay in order to disrupt his mom's new relationship with his old nemesis. He enlists the help of a former classmate to dig up dirt on Woodcock, but as John ups the ante on this Oedipal smackdown, he regresses deeper into the insecurities of his youth.
The thin script places John in one humiliating situation after another, and the running gag quickly grows tiresome. With comic setups this poorly constructed, this telegraphed, you can predict each punch line and punch to the groin long before they're delivered.
Thornton and Sarandon do what they can with the material, but everything around them—from the awkward editing and flashback voice-overs to the lame ending (which, heaven help us, hints at a sequel)—reeks like yesterday's jockstrap.
But, hey, his name is Woodcock. LOL! Woodcock! ROTFL!!!
The 180—a Second Opinion: The script boasts more cornpone corn puns than you can shake a stalk at. So, if you're cob-pletely obsessed with corny wordplay (shucks, who isn't?), plant yourself in the front row for an earful. You'll be amaized at hominy there are!