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Mr. Woodcock Reviews

A fat kid turned slim and successful self-help guru comes home for a visit and finds his mom on the verge of marrying the gym teacher who made his school years a misery in this broad comedy, which is as disjointed as you'd expect from a film that was reworked extensively by a second director. Best-selling author John Farley (Seann William Scott) is riding high on the success of "Letting Go: Getting Past Your Past," jetting across the country with his brittle agent (SNL's Amy Poehler) and basking in the adulation of readers who've found new hope in his advice. Then he goes home to corn-belt Forest Meadow to receive a local award and comes face-to-face with his old nemesis, Mr. Woodcock (Billy Bob Thornton) — heh heh… his name is wood cock — a petty sadist who delights in humiliating and abusing students who fail to live up to his exacting PE standards (that no one reports him to child protective services is one of the film's many improbabilities). And guess who Mr. Woodcock is dating? John's widowed mom, Beverly (Susan Sarandon), who thinks her sweet, considerate Jasper is just about the best thing that's ever happened to her. He's receiving an award for excellence in education on the same day John is getting the coveted "Corncob Key" to the city — isn't that sweet? John vows to strip away Woodcock's facade and expose him as the bastard he is, but his every effort backfires. It goes without saying that the humor is vulgar and juvenile — it's about a grown man reduced to babyish fury at the thought that his mother is having sex — but the war for top-dogdom is a venerable comic trope. It's all in what you do with it, and first-time director Craig Gillespie's take on Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert's script played so badly at test screenings that drastic measures had to be implemented. Producer David Dobkin, who directed the megahit WEDDING CRASHERS (2005), stepped in and shot considerable new footage, including a reworked ending and the film's best sight gag, which involves a hokey corn-themed parade, Mr. Woodcock strapped to a hospital gurney, and one strategically placed pothole.