Last September Billy Bob Thornton starred in School for Scoundrels, in which he played a prickish teacher of some sort. This September he starred in Mr. Woodcock, in which he played a prickish teacher of some sort. (The title is a clue, see.) At first glance—and I'm not ruling out that glance being an overtired or even tipsy one—it was easy to think that the ads for Mr. Woodcock were actually ads for a deluxe-edition School for Scoundrels DVD. A three-hour director's cut of the film, maybe?
Nope, different movies, yet Thornton has been gravitating to comedies where he plays mean bastards for a while now. The first was 2003's Bad Santa. The 2005 remake of The Bad News Bears (which lost its "The" for the remake) was number two, and School for Scoundrels and Mr. Woodcock round out the unofficial tetralogy (fancy word alert!). Bad Santa was somewhat of a sleeper hit, grossing $60 million, but the other three films didn't stay in theaters very long. Then again, the days of Star Wars playing at your local four-screen theater for almost an entire year are long gone. Today even a $300 million hit like Transformers is out on video just three months after it opens in theaters.
I haven't seen any of Thornton's bastard movies, so I can't say how effective he is as a bastard, but if he plays one again I hope he promotes the movie by going to people's houses, drinking all their hard liquor, smashing their priceless family heirlooms, molesting their pets, and, worst of all, leaving the toilet seat up. He won't vacate the premises until you promise to go see his new bastard movie. While you're at the theater he'll stay in your house and try on your underwear, draw mustaches on all your family photos, download copyrighted music onto your computer, spill beverages on your books and CDs, molest your pets again for old times' sake, and, worst of all, thumb through your magazines. That's just plain mean!
Did you know Thornton has put out four albums since 2001? The latest is Beautiful Door, which came out in July. If you don't buy it, Billy Bob may bust down the beautiful front door of your tastefully furnished home and make you buy it. Don't piss him off. You wouldn't like him when he's bastard-ish.
(One more thing about School for Scoundrels: when it came out last year, the TV ads featured Ben Stiller, who appeared to have a small part in the film, but his name wasn't anywhere to be seen in the print ads. Why feature him prominently in the TV ad campaign but not the print one? I'm guessing it's because MGM, the distributor, and the Weinstein Company, who produced the film, needed all the help they could get luring people into theaters after weak focus-group screenings, and if that meant exploiting Stiller's popularity for an extended cameo that he probably did as a favor to the film's director, Starsky & Hutch's Todd Phillips, then so be it.)