A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this lowbrow Billy Bob Thornton comedy revolves around an ongoing, immature competition between a woman's adult son and her suitor. In other words, expect lots of slapstick violence and childish behavior. Sexual jokes include the older man bragging about his prowess and sleeping with the young man's mother (in one scene, the younger man hides underneath a bed while his mother and her boyfriend have noisy sex above him). There's some drinking and smoking and plenty of strong language, including "a--hole," "s--t," and derogatory terms describing women and homosexual men.
What's the story?
Billy Bob Thornton stars as MR. WOODCOCK, a gym teacher pummels little boys with basketballs, tormenting the ones who are overweight, stutter, or have asthma and infusing all of them with lifelong insecurities and nightmares. One freckle-faced victim, Johnny, Seann William Scott appears to have escaped the pattern by adultood. In fact, he's written a best-selling self-help book, Letting Go, that's all about forgetting the past in order to move on. Against the advice of his energetic publicist Maggie (Amy Poehler), he accepts an invitation to go home to small-town Nebraska in order to receive the vaunted "Corn Cob Key." He likes corn, he says -- and besides, he can visit his mom, Beverly (Susan Sarandon). John's triumphant return is cut short when he learns that his mother's new boyfriend is Mr. Woodcock Instantly, the two men kindle a competition: John is determined to make his apparently unsuspecting mother recognize that her suitor is in fact unsuitable, while Woodcock means to prove his superiority one more time. Though John supposedly baggage-free, John falls back into all his old fears and uncertainty around Woodcock. Desperate, John enlists help from another former victim, Nedderman (Ethan Suplee). John also runs into a childhood crush, Tracy (Melissa Sagemiller), but she provides only brief distraction, as he remains obsessively focused on showing up his stepfather to be.
Is it any good?
In another movie, the premise -- how an adult bully affects his victims -- might have been worthy. But here it's only a point of departure for obnoxious humor (lots of insults, along with Woodcock's smackdowns). When you find out that he has an abusive father (who's still being mean from his wheelchair in a retirement home), well, you don't really care. And, really, the most upsetting part of the movie is that Beverly puts up with any of this rudeness and silliness, from either her son or her boyfriend. More than anything, you wish she'd get a ride out of town and start over.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether this kind of movie is funny. Why or why not? Why do so many comedies aimed at teens try to push the envelope with crude, lowbrow humor? Are teens more likely than adults to find it amusing? When does that style of humor cross the line? And who determines where that line falls, anyway?
- In theaters: September 13, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: January 15, 2008
- Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Seann William Scott, Susan Sarandon
- Director: Craig Gillespie
- Studio: New Line
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude and sexual content, thematic material, language and a mild drug reference.
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