School for Scoundrels (2006)
Review Date: September 20, 2007
Director: Todd Phillips
Writer: Todd Phillips, Scot Armstrong
Producers: Todd Phillips, Daniel Goldberg
Billy Bob Thornton as Dr. P
Jon Heder as Roger
Jacina Barrett as Amanda
A grade-A loser with no balls decides to take a class so that he can learn to be more assertive toward pretty much everyone in his life. The teacher of the class, one Dr. P, is a grade-A asshole who believes that he knows the secrets to meeting and hooking up with women. Passing along some of his learnings ultimately helps the grade-A loser hook up with his honey, but apparently Dr. P has other ideas, as he himself decides to go after said loser’s chick. What ensues is a comedy featuring one pissed-off Santa Claus schooling Napoleon Dynaschmuck.
After the solid comedic outputs from director Todd Phillips, including ROAD TRIP and OLD SCHOOL, I was expecting a lot more from this film, but unfortunately it falls closer to his last time behind the camera with STARSKY & HUTCH, then his previous big hits. The film actually starts off really good, with the first half hour delivering on a variety of levels, with the nerds/losers all lining up to learn from the master asshole himself, played perfectly by Billy Bob Thornton. But once the initial zing of the film’s funny premise wears off, and the tete-a-tete between Thornton and lead loser, played by Jon Heder, begins, the “hahas” slow down quite a bit, with the film’s finale leading to a predictable set of circumstances, a lot more emphasis on gag jokes (the stuff with the electric paddles in the end was just “weak”) and not too much in terms of memorable moments. Films that pit a couple of people against one another like MR. AND MRS. SMITH, WAR OF THE ROSES and TIN MEN really get the best out of their comedy when the circumstance between the two lead characters is built up nicely and features palpable chemistry between them. In this film, both Thornton and Heder do decent jobs with their characters, but it felt like only the first act of the movie was really massaged over by the writers, while the rest of the film just fell right into “predictable mode”.
The secondary characters in the film also did “alright”, but nobody really stood out, with Sarah Silverman doing her usual shtick, Michael Clarke Duncan cashing a paycheck and David Cross coming through, but being underused. The hottie in the film, played by Jacinda Barrett, was also “okay”, but again, nothing to really write home to mother about. Seems like she was just supposed to be the “chosen girl”, but really…other than looking damn good, she didn’t really bring much to the table. Not to mention the wasted cameo by Ben Stiller playing an over-the-top character that just felt out of place. I know it sounds like I’m ripping this movie a new one, but in actuality, it’s a decent film with a number of laughs (especially early on) and a pretty interesting premise (imagine if Tom Cruise’s character from MAGNOLIA…was real!!), but it just didn’t do all that much to take things to the next level and just ended up coasting to the finish line, in my opinion. Thornton also ought to try playing some different roles at this point, as his “asshole” character is started to wear a little thin (even though he does play them quite well). Also, the film’s title sucks. I mean, other than British aristocrats, who the fuck uses the word “scoundrels” anymore?! SCHOOL FOR LOSERS would have made a lot more sense.
(c) 2013 Berge Garabedian