School for Scoundrels review by Tom Blain

With the creation of Old School Todd Phillips earned himself my ticket consideration for the next few movies he makes. His follow-up, Starsky and Hutch, had some pretty funny moments (the best scene being The Dragon scene) although nothing as memorable as Old School. Regardless, I now scout his upcoming movies on IMDB.com and put his movies towards the top of my watch list. School for Scoundrels seemed to have lots of potential: Billy Bob Thorton playing an asshole teacher who instructs wimps on how to stand up for themselves. Seems like a slam dunk, but well too bad its not.

Roger (Jon Heder) is a nice guy who gets pushed around a lot. He has a position of authority as he works as a parking cop in New York City but he gets talked out of tickets and gets nervous when citizens step up to him. It probably doesnt help that he drives a dorky Diahatsu around and wears Larry Bird-tight cop shorts. No a job of glory. He gets picked on by just about everybody including his bitchy neighbor (Sarah Silverman) and the little boy he is a big brother too. One day a guy working at the Y tells him he should take a super secret class taught by Dr. P (Billy Bob Thorton) to work on his confidence. Roger attends and finds out Dr. Ps class is more about being aggressive and taking what you want more than just simply building confidence. It pretty much trains you how to be an asshole.

After a few classes the sheepish Roger shows some signs of budding into more aggressive alpha male, although his competition isnt exactly tough. As the top dog, the teacher decides that its time to knock him down a peg and begins challenge him in an independent study. Dr. P sets himself in competition with Roger Amanda (Jacinda Barrett), a girl in Rogers building that he has been trying to build up the courage ask out. For the rest of the movie we are treated with a no holds barred cat and mouse game between teacher and student.

This movie is based off of the 1960s British film School for Scoundrels or How to Win in Life Without Actually Cheating in which a wimpy British man is taken advantage of those around him, and learns from a professor how to turn the advantage back in his favor. I havent seen the original so I cant comment on comparisons. However in watching School for Scoundrels, I felt like I was watching a remake of 2003s Anger Management. Summary = Loser gets help from an edgy, unorthodox doctor to help him man-up and get the girl. Some scenes even felt like they were directly parallel scenes from Anger Management; even the New York setting is the same. For my money, Anger Management was a more enjoyable film with a few more laughs. Not to say it was a great comedy but overall if I had to pick between the two, Id rather see Anger Management again.

Scoundrels director Todd Phillips also directed outlandish comedies Road Trip, Starsky and Hutch, and Old School. I have enjoyed the immature National Lampoon-esque humor in most of his prior films, but I felt like School for Scoundrels was lacking something. Low originality is something I mentioned above, as I felt like I paid to see this movie three years ago with funnier actors, is one factor that weighs down the movie. Jon Heder was great as a goofball character in Napoleon Dynamite and does have some funny moments in Scoundrels as does Billy Bob, but there isnt much that is memorable. There arent 2 or 3 scenes or moments in the movie that are so funny that they are forever branded into the audiences head. The only thing that comes close is the point blank paintball scene but in a comedy like this, you need more than one scene where people get nailed with paintballs from two feet away with no protection. Also the movie jumps around a bit between plotlines and doesnt settle long enough to allow for a flow of gags. For example, there are only a few of the Scoundrel lessons (i.e. paintball, romantic dinner with Michael Duncan Clarke) before Dr. P starts sticking it to Roger. There could have been a lot more funny moments had they hit on a few more lessons. Once Roger started getting the business there were some funny parts but overall there was more downtime and even some touchy-feely moments.

School for Scoundrels had a pretty good premise (although not overly original) and given the cast could have been very funny but it never seems to tickle the funny bone long enough to make a lasting impression. A week later, this is the type of movie that you can forget you ever saw. Todd Phillips is still on my watch list, but after School for Scoundrels hes been knocked down a peg.




4 out of 10 Jackasses
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