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School For Scoundrels

Your Self Sucks

Losers, wimps, and the generally spineless have to cause to rejoice! Dr.Pís (Billy Bob Thornton) School For Scoundrels is in session and you too can learn to rub people the wrong way, manipulate the easily influenced, initiate violent confrontations, and become the alpha male you always wanted to be!

Unfortunately, Dr.P runs into a conundrum when his star pupil, Roger (Jon Heder aka Napoleon Dynamite), taps into his inner scoundrel and gives him a run for his money. The gameís afoot as the student takes on the master in a battle rivaled only by the epic confrontation between one young Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Playing the "Obi-Wan" to Hederís "Anakin" is Billy Bob Thornton. Thornton has carved a wonderfully entertaining niche for himself playing unrelenting pricks (Bad Santa, The Bad News Bears) and he continues this trend with School For Scoundrels. As ĎDr Pí, Thornton is as Machiavellian, prickly, and as hysterical as youíve ever seen him. No one does jerk with such joie de vivre as Thornton.

Jon Hederís Roger is the perfect counterpart to Dr. P. Roger gets his ass handed to him on a daily basis as a meter maid who seems to relish handing out tickets in rough neighborhoods and then paying back the individuals responsible for the violations.

Rogerís apartment is rife with self-help books, but he seems incapable of helping himself because in Dr. Pís words, "your self SUCKS". Heder is perfectly cast as the seemingly impotent Roger. While not quite at the same level as his performance as Napoleon Dynamite, Heder was born to play the outcast and does so admirably here.

Thorntonís Dr.P puts Roger and a myriad of losers through the gauntlet as part of his School For Scoundrels. In addition to having his understudies initiate violent confrontations with strangers, Dr.P has his motley crew engage in a merciless game of paintball in the woods, learn to manipulate women, and generally become the kind of jerk Dr.P has worked hard to become.

The best moments in School For Scoundrels are those involving Dr.P and his latest idea for helping his students matriculate into scoundrels. Thornton owns the film when heís onscreen and is unquestionably the funniest part of the film. Heder in effect acts as the straight man and in a questionable narrative decision evolves into a romantic lead.

Itís in the romantic subplot that School For Scoundrels falls short. The best that can be said about Roger is that heís a nice guy (wellÖhe actually becomes a pretty sizable jerk in the latter stages of the film in his attempts to usurp Dr.P), but he sure isnít handsome and his career as a meter maid doesnít exactly act as an aphrodisiac.

This raises the question of why his drop dead gorgeous neighbor, Amanda (Jacinda Barrett) would ever bat an eye in his direction. While Roger does evolve (in both a good and bad way), itís still not plausible that Amanda would go for a guy like Roger.

In addition to the farfetched romance subplot, the pacing of School For Scoundrels is a bit uneven. There are lengthy periods of the film that are not terribly humorous or compelling. That being said, if youíre a fan of Thorntonís jerk shtick, School For Scoundrels is a must see. For everyone else, you can relegate this one to the rental queue.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars