School For Scoundrels
When Jon Heder made his screen debut in Napoleon Dynamite, there was a rousing cheer of "Yesssss" emanating from the many disenfranchised teens that finally found a role model they could relate to. Unfortunately, that enthusiastic positive praise may deflate into a hissing "Nooooo" after checking out this film.
The setup has a young man named Roger (Heder) working as a parking bylaw enforcer -- a job his friends call a "meter maid." Definitely devoid of self-confidence, he gets roughed up after writing tickets, picked on by the guys at work, and can barely speak to Amanda (Jacinda Barrett) who lives in the apartment down the hall. Even his volunteer effort of being a Big Brother ends up in heartache after his "little" asks to be placed with a different "big."
When a friend gives him a tip to enroll in a mysterious school that will pump up his personality, the desperate twenty-something feels it's his only hope. Passing $5,000 in an envelope to a huge guy named Lesher (Michael Clarke Duncan), Roger finds himself ushered into a classroom full of other "nice" guys. Under the "care" of their tutor, Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton), the group of aspiring self-esteem builders are soon forced to stand up for themselves, or be mowed over.
What begins as a funny premise quickly erodes into one of the more mean-spirited films to make its way onto the big screen. Suggesting the definition of a real man includes being confrontational, "dangerous," having a desire to get drunk and willing to take any opportunity for sex; this movie seems determined to leave a very negative impression on young audiences.
The screenplay also promotes some other bad habits such as, smashing car windows at random, being cruel to elderly people (one character dumps Jello in the face of a nursing home resident), disregarding safety rules (during a paintball sequence the guys exchange point blank shots while not wearing any protective gear), stealing and causing other property damage--all in an effort to enlarge their egos. Language is no better, with frequent profanities, terms of deity, and discussions of homosexual rape.
Perhaps we should have seen the writing on the wall, as the script was penned and directed by Todd Phillips, whose past credits include other infamous comedies like Old School and Starsky & Hutch. But just in case you assumed this film (which doesn't even attempt to offer a redeeming wrap-up message) would provide more benign Napoleon-like entertainment, be warned this School For Scoundrels deserves a failing grade.