SPLASH! It’s Mr. Woodcock in Real Life


We went kinda crazy with the movies this weekend…  We watched the 1984 classic Splash with the kids, and we also took in Mr. Woodcock and Dan in Real Life (for the adults).  Splash is a Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah movie about a mermaid who leaves the ocean to come to New York city and fall in love with Tom Hanks.  It sounds dumb, but it’s actually pretty well done and a movie with substance and heart.  The special effects of her fins aren’t bad either, considering they’re over 20 years old and most likely made without computer assistence.  Since I haven’t seen the movie since I was a kid, I was wondering this time around about how many takes it took to film the underwater scenes…  mainly the one where Daryl Hannah’s character looks on a map in a sunken ship to find where Tom Hanks lives.  Also, there’s a scene in the movie where they are trying to choose a name for the mermaid, since her name is unpronouncable in English.  They’re walking down a New York street, and Tom Hanks mutters, “where are we, Madison…” to which Daryl Hannah replies, “Madison, I like Madison.”  That was a joke in the movie at the time, that the mermaid was named after a street in New York, but nowadays, the name Madison is almost TOO popular.  We had about 4 Madisons or Maddies in a play we directed last year out of 21 kids!  Anyway, I would recommend this as a good family movie, especially for little girls.  There is actually some nudity (female rear end), and I could have done without a few of the kissing scenes, but overall, it is good family entertainment.  I wonder if it would have gotten a PG13 rating if it had come out a few years later?  I know there is a Splash Too, but judging by the lack of returning actors, I haven’t bothered to check it out.  After a quick lookup on imdb.com, I found that it got a whopping 3.0 rating with only 170 votes.  Also interesting is that Madison the mermaid in Splash Too is played by Amy Yasbeck, who is nowadays best known for being John Ritter’s widow.  She was good in her bit part in Pretty Woman, but still…  I wonder if I should bother getting it from the library for the kids?  Also in the original Splash is Eugene Levy, who plays the bad guy trying to expose the mermaid  – literally, by throwing water on her in public.  This must be one of his first movies; I think he was a relatively unknown actor back then…  Also, the late, great John Candy is hilarious as Tom Hanks’ party animal brother, and those two have great chemistry in the movie…  but on to the adult movies…  ahem, I’m talking about the movies we watched without the kids…

Mr. Woodcock is a comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton, who came no where near to reminding me of his character in Sling Blade – that’s probably why he was nominated for an Oscar for that performance.  I wasn’t expecting much from this movie, but it was actually worse than I thought.  It wasn’t horrible, and I didn’t feel like I wasted my time watching it, but it wasn’t very funny, and there wasn’t much to get from it.  For one thing, I thought they would make the Mr. Woodcock character a little more nasty.  As it turned out, he was really only nasty to little kids, which is still pretty bad, but I thought we’d catch him being nasty behind his girlfriend’s back.  Let me back up for a minute and give a plot synopsis – Mr. Woodcock is a horribly nasty gym teacher who terrorized kids so badly that a former student uses his experiences as fodder for an inspiring self-help book he wrote.  This former student returns to his hometown in Nebraska to receive the “corn key to the city” only to find that his mom is happily dating Mr. Woodcock – his childhood nemisis!  The successful author is played by Seann William Scott, whose acting I wasn’t thrilled with.  His mother was played by Susan Sarandon, and she was pretty good in the movie, given the character she had to play, who didn’t have much depth.  Like I said, I didn’t feel like I wasted my time on this movie, but I don’t know that I’d watch it again either.  It definitely wasn’t one of my favorite comedies.

Dan in Real Life is a touching comedy (just falls short of a dra-medy, I would say, not quite sad enough, thank goodness) about a columnist widower named Dan (the ever-awesome Steve Carell) who is raising 3 daughters alone.  The girls seem to be about 16, 14, and 9.  For starters, let’s just say that this movie had me dreading my life in about 10 years – the movie depicted teenage girls as frightening challenges for parents!  Anyway, Dan takes his girls to visit their extended family for a few days, and when he first arrives, he really falls for the ‘perfect woman’.  He gets to his mom and dad’s house, and wouldn’t you know it, the ‘perfect woman’ turns out to be his brother’s girlfriend.  After a few days of torture…  well, I’ll let you watch the movie, I don’t want to spoil anything for you.  It’s a really cute romantic comedy.  If you have sons, you will be amused at Dan’s daughters’ antics.  If you have daughters, be afraid, be very afraid!  On another note, Steve Carell has beaten out Tom Hanks as my favorite actor – he is just amazing and so fun to watch, whether it’s in the Office, Evan Almighty, or Dan in Real Life.  His characters never remind me of each other, and it’s not like they’re mentally impaired like Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade or Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump – sometimes those types of characters are actually easier to play since they have a very specific demeanor about them.  Steve Carell plays ‘regular’ guys, yet he gives them such depth and character that it really helps draw you into the movie and / or show.  I never watched the tv show Get Smart, but with Steve Carell playing Maxwell Smart in the big screen version of Get Smart due this summer, you can bet I plan on checking it out!  Dan in Real Life is funny and heartwarming, and it makes me look forward to having huge family get-together weekends at our house someday with the kids and their spouses and kids…  providing we survive the teenage years of course – that remains to be seen!

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