School For Scoundrels Todd Phillips

From the duo responsible for mildly successful comedies Road Trip, Old School and Starsky & Hutch comes their newest fish-out-of-water flick, School For Scoundrels, based very loosely on director Robert Hamer’s ’60s British comedy of the same name. Writer/director Todd Phillips and co-writer Scott Armstrong present the story of meter maid Roger (Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder), who, sick and tired of being down on his luck, enrols in a secret confidence building class taught by the cocky, egomaniacal Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton). While Roger’s confidence continues to grow and he looks ready to get the girl (Jacinda Barrett), it all begins to unravel as Dr. P moves in to woo her as well. Of course, a battle of wits ensues with an outcome that is obvious. Thornton plays Dr. P, a role specifically written for him, as a suave, clean version of Willie from Bad Santa, and he’s countered well by Heder, an expert at playing the naïve push-over, breaking just a little more from the Napoleon mould, especially as Roger gains confidence. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the supporting cast is composed of great comedians and improv actors like Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman, David Cross, etc. There are some funny moments, like the paintball session, and a few twists and turns that keep the movie from being too straight forward, but Scoundrels just doesn’t have as many laughs as you’d expect from a cast like this. Still, the commentary by Phillips and Hamer reveals a lot about their ongoing working relationship, along with a few interesting titbits about the movie, like Heder’s desire to perform all of his own stunts. However, it’s the featurette "The Making-Of You Didn’t See on TV” where the cast really get to flex their improv and comedy muscles; it’s especially amusing to see the dialogue between Thornton and Heder as their characters from Sling Blade and Napoleon Dynamite, respectively. Scoundrels may be a mostly mindless comedy but it’s perfect as a late night, brain dead rental. (Alliance Atlantis)