School For Scoundrels
Review by Jack Foley
IS THERE anything worse than a Hollywood remake that’s also content to let its two main actors trade on their own past successes?
School For Scoundrels is lacklustre re-imagining of a 1960 British movie of the same name (starring Terry Thomas), directed and co-written by Todd (Road Trip/Starsky & Hutch) Phillips.
It follows the fortunes of hopeless loser Roger (Jon Heder) as he attempts to win the woman of his dreams (Jacinda Barrett’s Amanda) by enrolling in a dubious confidence course run by the ball-busting Dr P (Billy Bob Thornton).
Once on top of things, however, Roger finds himself in a battle of wits with Dr P as both men find themselves vying for Amanda’s affections.
On paper, School For Scoundrels probably sounded like a no-brainer for success. It boasts a director with a proven track record for comedy and two stars who know what they’re doing in these kinds of roles.
But therein lies its biggest failing. It trades on the obvious, relies on the low-brow when a little sophistication might have helped and takes its sadistic streak a little too far with supposedly amusing references to male rape.
The result is a film that never once gets out of second gear (or is that rate?). Thornton trots out his Bad Santa routine and Heder revisits Napoleon Dynamite‘s nerd.
There’s the occasional chuckle to be had in watching them humiliate each other but their antics only raise the odd smirk where a belly laugh would have been preferred.
The film does a little better during the romantic interludes between Roger and Amanda, which are nicely played, and whenever Todd Louiso appears on-screen as another of Dr P’s students. But a cameo from Ben Stiller feels totally desperate and merely drags things out.
It’s a measure of the film’s desperation for laughs that Phillips resorts to roping in previous collaborators to try and find them.
But sadly, there’s no reason for viewers to enrol in this school in the first place.
Running time: 101mins