SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS
***1/2 (out of 5)
September 29, 2006
Billy Bob Thornton as DR. P
Jon Heder as ROGER
Jacinda Barrett as AMANDA
Matt Walsh as WALSH
Horatio Sanz as DIEGO
Todd Louiso as ELI
Michael Clarke Duncan as LESHER
Directed by: Todd Phillips
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Sometimes it’s a good thing to be type cast. Sure, it seems to be the bane of the existence of many film personalities over the years, like Anthony Perkins, Jack Nicholson and Jenna Jameson. However, sometimes it’s the only thing that holds a movie together.
The clever use of typecasting is what makes “School of Scoundrels” work.
The film stars Jon Heder as Roger, a dorky guy who has a crush on Amanda (Jacinda Barrett), the girl next door. In order to build his confidence to ask her out, he takes a secret class run by Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton). This class teaches young dorks like Roger to become sexy and cool.
As Roger becomes the star of the class, Dr. P is threatened. In order to take down the alpha male of the team, Dr. P soon sets his sights on Amanda. However, unlike his previous students, Roger doesn’t take this lying down. It soon becomes war between teacher and pupil with the girl next door as the prize.
Heder is best known for his portrayal of an uber-geek in the sleeper hit “Napoleon Dynamite,” and the filmmakers tap into this character for “School for Scoundrels.” Of course, Roger is nowhere near as dorky as Napoleon was, but he is clearly not a leading man type.
Likewise, Billy Bob Thornton rehashes a role we’ve seen him in many times before – like “Bad Santa” and “The Bad News Bears.” However, unlike these films which relied more on mean-spiritedness and vinegar, there’s a anti-hero likability to Dr. P. It’s not that I really sympathized too much with either Dr. P or Roger, but rather enjoyed watching them spar, like a cinematic cock fight.
Add director Todd Phillips – the man who brought us “Old School” and “Road Trip” – and you have a type-casting template. With Phillips behind the helm, you know you’ll get a funny film. There’s plenty of inappropriate humor, including some really inappropriate stuff regarding Michael Clarke Duncan’s bodyguard character of Lesher, that just made me laugh.
The rest of the cast is strong as well. Even the ones that aren’t cast to known type are pretty darn funny. Todd Louiso seems to steal every scene he is in as the nerdy Moby lookalike. There’s also a nice show from Horatio Sanz who proves that he can actually be funny when he’s not on “Saturday Night Live.”
Comedies like this can be tricky, especially when the studio cuts a trailer. Sometimes the trailers give away too much and show the best scenes. You’re left waiting 30 to 40 minutes for the real story to start while watching the otherwise funny scenes play out with no surprise. To a degree, this happens with “School for Scoundrels,” but there is still plenty more to laugh at – especially the stuff that isn’t appropriate to put in a trailer.
Ultimately, “School for Scoundrels” is much like Phillips’ other work. It’s gonna be panned by the critics, but it’ll be a success because it taps into a target demographic and doesn’t cost a whole lot of money to make.
I’m not ashamed to say I liked it. It’s funny. It’s hip. And it’s the only new movie in wide release that doesn’t star Ashton Kutcher.