School for Scoundrels (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Dr P (Billy Bob Thornton)
runs a school to change wusses into tough guys. Roger (Jon Heder) is a
wuss with a crush on his next door neighbor, Amanda (Jacinda Barrett).
He can’t get up the nerve to ask her for a date, so he enrolls in Dr P’s
school. Thus begins a relatively funny adventure with Roger finally
having to challenge his teacher, leading to some humorous scenes.
Thornton has pretty much
copywritten the role of the outsider who marches to the beat of a
disturbed drummer. Heder is coming off an acclaimed performance in
“Napoleon Dynamite” and seems perfectly cast as the guy who is so meek
he is just too, too nice. As such, he’s never going to get the girl.
Buttressing the right-on
performances of the two stars are some good supporting performances,
mainly by Michael Clarke Duncan as Dr P’s brutal enforcer, Lesher, and
Ben Stiller as the loony Lonnie.
Good script by Director Todd
Phillips and Scot Armstrong based on Stephen Potter’s book, “School for
Scoundrels or how to win without actually cheating,” and the 1960 film
written by Hal E. Chester and Patricia Moyes.
Although he gives a good
performance as a loser who wants to be a winner, Heder shows that he is
of the Sean Penn School as he wails without shedding any tears. Scenes
like these immediately lose their effectiveness as you see an actor
blubber and cry without any visible result. If an actor is so deficient
of ability that he can’t shed tears on cue, he shouldn’t agree to any
The movie is entertaining.
Thornton is rewardingly ambiguous up until the very end. As with most
films, I thought this was a little too long at 101 minutes. I squirmed a
little and looked at my watch a couple of times. Had it been tighter, it
would have been better, but it was good enough, especially when it’s
compared with most of the other stuff that’s foisted on the audience
September 28, 2006