"School for Scoundrels” gets an average grade


Oct. 4, 2006, midnight | By Betsir Zemen | 13 years, 10 months ago

Film fails in plot line, but excels in comedy


With actors famous for being funny, including Jon Heder and Billy Bob Thornton, one would think "School for Scoundrels" would be an exceptional comedy. Unfortunately just the opposite is true: the plot follows the average template of endless competition, failing where it could have succeeded.

Meet Roger (Jon Heder), a New York City Meter-maid short on luck: Roger gets bullied at work, cannot win the girl of his dreams and cannot even get a kid in the Big Brother program to like him. In his attempt to change his self image, Roger joins a secret confidence building class taught by the suave Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton).

The class seems to be just the incentive Roger needs as soon he is releasing his inner lion by standing up to the bullies at work. He even gets the courage to ask out his pretty neighbor, Amanda (Jacinda Barrett). Now the conflict: because Roger is becoming such a good student, Dr. P feels threatened and goes into ultra-competitive mode, making it his goal to destroy Roger's life, including going after Amanda himself.

"School for Scoundrels," directed by Todd Phillips, is a loose remake of its 1960's namesake and combines hilarious scenes and lovable characters for a classic nerd who needs a life change. Jon Heder, famous (or notorious) for being Napolean Dynamite, plays the same geeky loser, thankfully without the big glasses this time. Heder gives an amusing, comical performance which contrasts Thornton's snide sarcasm and condescending acting.

The film has a somewhat classic, predictable, I've-seen-it-a-million-times plot, as evident in the constant battle between the main characters Dr. P and Roger. The characters' tricks range from spray painting dogs to launching tennis balls at the head, all forms of revenge. The plot quickly gets tiring, but the absurdity of the antics of Dr. P and Roger keep the viewer interested longer.

Strangely, the woman Dr. P and Roger are fighting over does not come off as worthy of their attention. She is gullible and sweet, but incapable of seeing through Dr. P's behavior and lies. Other characters with less than stunning performances include Becky (Sarah Silverman), Amanda's sarcastic roommate who adds little to the film, and Lesher (Michael Clarke Duncan), Dr. P's assistant who fades into the backround.

Phillips, who brought us "Road Trip" and "Old School," combines Heder's played awkwardness with Thornton's wittiness to create an interesting chemistry. As Roger gains confidence and skills throughout the movie, Dr. P seems increasingly less intimidating, sending a subtle message of being true to oneself. With the help of surprise characters, Roger gains more insight on Dr. P's tactics while getting closer and closer to winning the girl.

Although lacking a unique plot line, "School of Scoundrels" does provide a collection of comical scenes and characters that are both lovable and detestable. Even though Heder fails to live up to his "Napolean Dynamite" fame, and Thornton does not seem to be as malevolent as in his "Bad Santa" performance, but the two actors combined do accomplish the goal of entertainment viewers.

"School For Scoundrels", rated PG-13 for language, crude and sexual content, and some violence, runs for 100 minutes and is now playing everywhere.




Betsir Zemen. More »

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