School for Scoundrels (DVD)


You can make as much of a ruckus as you wanna at “School”, but at the end of the day, you won’t have learnt nothing – and you definitely won’t be walking away with anything.

Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Heder, Jacinda Barrett, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Cross, Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman, Matt Walsh, Horatio Santz, Todd Louiso

You can make as much of a ruckus as you wanna at “School”, but at the end of the day, you won’t have learnt nothing – and you definitely won’t be walking away with anything.

By ‘School’, I mean “School for Scoundrels”, the new Billy Bob Thornton/Jon Heder comedy, which encompasses the educational value of well, say, an afternoon private study class.

Having said that, it’s not all about educating one’s self is it? Sometimes you’ve just got to have a little fun, and Todd ‘Old School’ Phillips’ latest comedy definitely knows how to party.

An unruly hour-and-a-half of infantile humour and ‘big boys gone wild’ hijinks, “Scoundrels” is essentially a retooled version of, well ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’, with two con-men (well, one con-man in training) trying to one up one another to win the heart of a girl.

Billy Bob Thornton (who seems to have a man-crush with comedies right now) plays the instructor of a ‘confidence building’ class that challenges his pupils to the most inane of missions: for instance, he gives them all a ‘beeper’ and tells the students that whenever it ‘beeps’, they must immediately confront someone.

The most-improved student of the class, Roger (Jon Heder), thinks he’s a transformed man – but little does he know that things are about to get a lot worse for him. Seems there’s a lot more to his instructor than at first meets the eye; especially when he spots him with the girl he has been dating (Jacinda Barrett). Suddenly, he has to put his newly discovered confidence and skills to the test, as he challenges his instructor over a woman.

There are quite a few reasons why “Scoundrels” works. First, it’s both silly and sweet – a combination that always works (just ask Adam Sandler) on audiences – maintaining a good balance of both; the cast are terrific (Thornton is his usual solid best; Heder gives his best performance since ‘Napoleon Dynamite’, and adorable Aussie, Jacinda Barrett, is just, well, adorable. She truly lights up the screen. The film almost dips whenever she doesn’t appear in a frame); and it also embodies a script that doesn’t dip after the twenty-minute mark – which a lot of these comedies do – seemingly still full of juice right up until the first end credit rolls.

Granted, the film could have done with a lot more laughs. The kind of laughs that the film possesses are the ones that’ll put a smile on your dial, but won’t exactly have you rolling around the floor in laughter. There were some real opportunities here for some side-splitting moments… but Phillips’ seems intent on keeping himself on a leash. In addition, his script is riddled with more holes than Mark Lee at the end of “Gallipoli”.

Does it matter? Nah, not really, because you’re not expecting much anyway so it’ll already surprise with you with just how super silly and sensationally sweet it is. I guess you’d say this is probably the film that Anger Management – starring Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler – should’ve been. And though you’ll forget it within half an hour after watching it, its admittedly one ‘School’ you definitely want to enrol in.

Extras include a really informative, and slightly amusing, commentary by the writers/director; a side-splitting making-of; some bloopers; and an alternate ending (a little ‘sweeter’ than the current one).

Rating :
Reviewer : Clint Morris