School For Scoundrels

Year: 2006
Production Co: Scoundrel Productions
Director: Todd Phillips
Producer: Todd Phillips
Writer: Todd Phillips
Cast: Jon Heder, Billy Bob Thornton, Jacinda Barrett, Michael Clarke Duncan, Sarah Silverman, Luis Guzman, Ben Stiller
Jon Heder is following a very well trod path from indie comedy breakout star (thanks to Napoleon Dynamite) to studio hack comic in a series of lazy, uninspiring roles that cement his already pretty boring shtick (and before you argue, he was only funny in Blades of Glory because of having Will Ferrell to play off). With his huge fish mouth and effeminate gait, it would be a real treat to see him convincingly play a cruel mobster or butch truck driver. It's also a faxed-in performance from Billy Bob Thornton, who occasionally slums it in get-paid-and-run jobs likes this.

The high concept set-up is a secret training course given by career bastard (Thorton) for weedy men to attend by invitation only in order to toughen up.

Heder is the simpering coward who goes along to the course where he meets various other misfits tailor-made for comic relief. The premise of the film is when he starts to get tough, inexplicably and inconsistently despite the Macguffin of the training course, and catch the eye of his dream girl from across the hall (Barrett), his slimy teacher starts to move in and the film turns into a battle of wills and dirty tricks.

It was a similar idea to Anger Management, but where the Nicholson/Sandler film had something to say in a smart twist that not only surprised but explained everything, this abortion goes to no such lengths.

If anything, it sets up a great twist in the pair's penultimate confrontation at the airport but then cheaply undoes the lot to clearly draw a good and a bad guy. Unflinchingly, the heroine decides on the most tenuous of whims to suddenly believe the hero and the day is saved.

Just not the movie. A few laughs, but all the hallmarks of a studio wanting to chuck some money away and hope for a sleeper DVD hit, and some actors of previously great promise (including Michael Clarke Duncan) willing to pocket some of it. It also should have been burned at the stake for wasting the wonderfully X rated sarcasm of Sarah Silverman.

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