Thursday, 01 October 2020
School for Scoundrels
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Tuesday, 26 September 2006 21:29

Ok, I’ve seen a lot of really good serious movies this fall, so please don’t hold it against me that I felt like lightening the mood this week! I skipped out on the heavy hitting All the Kings Men, which promised a lot of possibly boring political drama. Yet another Oscar-caliber performance by Sean Penn. Well, whoop-de-do. So, when I heard there was a sneak preview of School for Scoundrels I decided to forego the drama for a good chuckle.

School for Scoundrels marks a return to the screen for Napoleon Dynamite himself John Heder. He stars as Roger, a New York meter maid who suffers from chronic panic attacks. He’s a sweet and lonely guy who wants nothing more than to make a good impression on his beautiful neighbor Amanda (Jacinda Barrett). The many self-help books littering his apartment have done nothing to improve his self-image, and the thought of looking like a loser to Amanda is more than he can handle. On the advise of a friend Roger signs up for a self-help class that promises to turn him from a lamb into a lion.

Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton) is the confident, callous guru whose job it is to teach life skills to this class full of shrinking violets. Men pay him $5000 to learn lessons such as “Be dangerous, it’s cool” and “Lie, Lie, and lie some more”. And then there’s the matter of Dr. P’s burly assistant Lesher (Michael Clarke Duncan) who may or may not take abuse his position of authority to teach some lessons of his own.

Roger starts to excel in the class, especially when he takes down Lesher himself in a hilarious and brutal paintball game! But Dr. P isn’t looking for competition and decides to teach his protégé a lesson. What ensues is a no-holds-barred battle of wits and wills.

This movie has a good balance of slapstick humor and witty dialogue, making it a nice surprise. Some absolutely hilarious moments really stand out. In one scene, each of the men in the class has to start a random confrontation at a moment’s notice; kind of like Fight Club for failures. Another fun scene has Roger deciding to free the lobster from a restaurant tank because Amanda feels sorry for them!

The combination of John Heder and Billy Bob Thornton probably could have been a bigger riot than this was, but they played well off each other nonetheless. Though John Heder’s role places him once again at the pinnacle of geek-dom, he plays it with a fresh-faced innocence that shows his potential for bigger and better things.

And speaking of “fresh-faced”, I would just like to take a moment and tell Billy Bob “Enough with the plastic surgery already!”

There are some over the top moments that detract from the overall hilarity. A few of the jokes should either have been taken further or left out completely. Instead they ended up in a humorless limbo.

Jacinda Barrett was wasted as a love interest who had very little to do except have men drool over her. After seeing just how talented she is in The Last Kiss, I think she could have been more than a pretty possession. Comedian Sarah Silverman plays her roommate who I found to be anything but funny. In fact she grated on me so much I wish she had been cut out of the film.

In closing, there are a few flaws, but I think this film is worth checking out if you’re in need of some comic relief! It definitely kept me entertained the whole way through. I give School for Scoundrels 6 out of 10 stars.