Running Time: 87 mins
Rated: Rated M (moderate sexual references and coarse language)
This is a brief take-it-or-leave it comedy. It is black-humoured comedy that seems not to have caught the American audiences or tickled their funnybones. It is not exactly subtle but it is quite ironic in tone and that did not appeal locally.
Which means that it may have more chance outside the US. In fact, I found the screenplay quite funny in its ironic dialogue, situations and characters, often quite clever in its observations and barbs.
Seann William Scott plays John Farley, a young man who has written a self-help bestseller - and he knows what he is talking about. He was a lone child, devoted to his mother, grieving his dead father. But he was also on the obese side, hopeless at sports, picked on - especially by the merciless gym coach, Mr Woodcock. Mr Woodcock has to be heard to be believed in the way he runs his class, allotting laps and push-ups and devastating insults in his deadpan tone. The fact that he is played by Billy Bob Thornton absolutely seriously makes the portrayal of Mr Woodcock more effective.
When the young author arrives back in his home town for a local honour, he is shocked to find that his mother, Susan Sarandon, is dating again, a man whom she finds loving, gentle, altogether attractive: Mr Woodcock. In disbelief and gradually abandoning all his self-help principles (which are spouted with chapter reference by his old school friend), John devises ways for his mother to see the light. The backfiring of these plots and the unflappability of Mr Woodcock provides some comedy.
There is a thought at the end - that people like Mr Woodcock can traumatise young minds, although, as Mr Woodcock remarks, it was only a gym class.
If you don't like it, no problem. But, you might.
Village Roadshow Out March 13
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting