School for Scoundrels

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Time Out says

Tue Feb 20 2007

Jon ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ Heder plays another geek in this US remake of the 1960s Brit comedy. He’s Roger, a parking attendant who can’t approach his attractive neighbour Amanda (Jacinda Barrett) without passing out. A whisper from an acquaintance leads him to the titular classes, run by the macho Dr P (Billy Bob Thornton), a sort of underground version of Tom Cruise’s guru in ‘Magnolia’.

In theory, Dr P teaches Roger and a bunch of wimps how to gain confidence, but his methods are unusual at best (he pages them at random, ordering them to start a fight). Complications ensue when Roger succeeds in class and Dr P views him as competition. An underhand fight ensues, with the Amanda as the prize.

It’s the stuff of simple comedy, but as frat-flicks go it’s a return to form for director Todd Phillips, who followed ‘Road Trip’ and ‘Old School’ with the flimsy ‘Starsky & Hutch’. A likeable lead, Heder has us rooting for Roger’s transformation from the start, and Thornton is a sinister rival. The narrative drags towards the end, however, and there’s little in the way of clever wordplay or piercing observation: it relies on slapstick for laughs, and none of them reach the point of hilarity. Enjoyable but unambitious, ‘School for Scoundrels’ lacks a competitive drive, and, yes, you’ve seen all the best jokes in the trailer.
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