Gym Teacher and Ex-Student Square-Off in Over-the-Top Insult Comedy
As a pudgy seventh grader, John Farley (Seann William Scott) was embarrassed by his overbearing phys-ed teacher (Billy Bob Thornton) who made him strip in front of the class for forgetting to wear his sweat suit. After being driven by nightmares of the humiliating incident to lose all the excess fat, John grew up to write a best-selling book to inspire others to achieve their dreams.
13 years later, Farley, now a famous self-help guru, has been lured back to his hometown to receive the key to the city. But upon his arrival, he’s shocked to find his widowed mother (Susan Sarandon) blissfully in love and engaged to none other than the unrepentant Mr. Woodcock. Since the sadistic drill sergeant hasn’t mellowed with age, John decides to make it his business to break them up before the creep can become his stepfather.
This scenario sets up the no-holds-barred battle royal which ensues for the duration of Mr. Woodcock, a mean-spirited insult comedy laced with locker room humor. Though the picture has a few funny moments, more of its crude bits miss than hit the mark. Who wants to see Billie Bob Thornton abuse kids for being overweight, for having asthma, or for not being athletically inclined, even if an 11th hour revelation supposedly makes everything okay in the end?
And Susan Sarandon must be very hard-up for decent roles, judging by her one-note performance as Woodcock’s dimwitted fiancee. Sadly, the five-time Oscar-nominee has been reduced to playing decidedly underwhelming characters recently, in films like Elizabethtown, Alfie and In the Valley of Elah.
By contrast, it is apparent that the less-discriminating Billy Bob Thornton has embraced the idea of appealing to the lowest possible common denominator. How else can you explain his presence in another bad taste bottom-feeder which might have been better titled Bad Gym Teacher, ala Bad Santa?
Fair (1.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for crude humor, sexual content, profanity, mature themes and a drug reference.
Running time: 88 minutes
Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, “The Making of” documentary, a theatrical trailer and a featurette entitled “Trauma Tales.”