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|School for Scoundrels|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Todd Phillips|
scr Todd Phillips, Scot Armstrong
with Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Heder, Jacinda Barrett, Michael Clarke Duncan, Todd Louiso, Horatio Sanz, Matt Walsh, Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman, Luis Guzmán, David Cross, Jon Glaser
release US 29.Sep.06,
06/US Dimension 1h40
Roar like a lion: Thornton and Heder
Based on 1960 British comedy but thoroughly transformed into a Todd Phillips-style romp (see Old School), this silly movie has enough entertaining dialog and performances to keep us chuckling, even though it's not particularly clever.
Roger (Heder) is a loser with no self respect, working as a New York parking cop. So a friend refers him to a top-secret school taught by the mysterious Dr P (Thornton) and his tough-guy sidekick Lesher (Duncan). Roger's main goal is to woo his neighbour Amanda (Barrett), but Dr P has all kinds of nefarious tricks up his sleeve. Eventually Roger teams up with four other students (Louiso, Sanz and Walsh), plus a bitter drop-out (Stiller), to maintain a shred of dignity. And maybe learn something in the process.
There are plenty of laugh-out-loud sequences in the film, although they're all of the rather obvious sort, relying on big gags rather than any actual wit. Set pieces like the paint ball exercise are very funny, even though the laughs are extremely cheap. Phillips clearly has no limits to how low he'll stoop for a laugh. Sometimes this is rather endearing. Although there's nothing that actually sticks with us.
Performances are breezy and relatively engaging. Heder is goofy and sweet, with strong comic timing and a willingness to look extremely foolish, even when his character should really know better. But never mind, his face-offs with Thornton are lively and sparky. Thornton can play this kind of smiling backstabber in his sleep. None of the supporting cast get very much to do, although Silverman is hilarious as Amanda's sarcastic flatmate.
As the story degenerates into all-out war, it loses some of its momentum. Roger's development from a nerd into someone with a bit of confidence kind of takes the back seat to the one-upmanship. While the predictable love story, which keeps trying to take over the film, falls through the cracks entirely. In the end it's an easy, corny bit of forgettable fluff. Worth watching as a bit of escapism, but if you try to think about it, you're in trouble.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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