School For Scoundrels

2006, Movie, PG-13, 100 mins


Frat-boy panderers Todd Phillips and Scot Armstrong (OLD SCHOOL, ROAD TRIP), bring their sensibilities to a coarse and not very funny remake of Robert Hamer's dry little 1960 comedy of self-help regimens and sophisticated caddishness. Meek, New York City meter maid Roger (Jon Heder) is one of life's losers: He's terrorized by angry motorists, humiliated by his coworkers, rejected by the troubled youngsters he tries to mentor through the Big Brother program, and completely ignored by girls, including foxy neighbor Amanda (Jacinda Barrett), on whom he has an intense crush. He's read his way through a small mountain of self-help books, but nothing works until he finds his way to Dr. P's (Billy Bob Thornton) top-secret seminar on finding your inner predator. The key to life, snarls Dr. P, resides in taking charge: Be unpredictable, be confrontational, be dangerous, and when it comes to women, lie, lie and lie some more — whatever it takes to get what you want. To his own utter astonishment, Roger quickly masters Dr. P's precepts, rescuing fellow students Walsh (Matt Walsh), Eli (Todd Louiso) and Diego (Horatio Sanz) from DELIVERANCE-style degradation by Dr. P's right-hand man (Michael Clarke Duncan) during a no-holds-barred, al fresco paintball exercise, and managing to impress animal-loving Amanda over dinner by initiating a free-the-lobsters raid on the kitchen. But Roger's success is also his downfall: Dr. P bridles at competition and has a history of dealing with tall sunflowers by lopping them off at the head. If Roger wants Amanda, he's going to have to beat Dr. P at his own game. For all its crudeness, Phillips' tale of men behaving badly is remarkably toothless; true love trumps ruthless one-upmanship, and nice-guy Roger not only finishes first but shows Dr. P the error of his inconsiderate ways. The brilliantly sharp-tongued Sarah Silverman is wasted in the one-note role of Amanda's bitchy roommate, and Ben Stiller contributes a wild-eyed, 11th-hour cameo so excruciatingly unfunny it's painful to watch. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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