Combustible Celluloid
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With: Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Heder, Jacinda Barrett, Sarah Silverman, Todd Louiso, Michael Clarke Duncan, Matt Walsh, Horatio Sanz, Paul Scheer, Jon Glaser, Leonard Earl Howze, David Cross, Luis Guzman, Dan Folger, Ben Stiller
Written by: Todd Phillips, Scot Armstrong
Directed by: Todd Phillips
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, crude and sexual content, and some violence
Running Time: 100
Date: 09/29/2006

School for Scoundrels (2006)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Jerking Class

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

By now Billy Bob Thornton has nothing to prove in the acting department. His performances have ranged from the cuddly and sad (Sling Blade, A Simple Plan) to the ferocious (Monster's Ball). But recently, in Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa (2003), he stumbled upon an as-yet-untapped comic persona, the cynical and deadpan, yet potty-mouthed scoundrel. It was a gold mine, but further veins proved deceptive. An attempt to carbon copy it with Richard Linklater's Bad News Bears (2005) failed. The new School for Scoundrels attempts to correct this situation, and Thornton does his job admirably, but he's derailed by a typically clunky script. When Roger (Jon Heder) realizes his loser qualities are running his life, a friend points him toward a special class, run by "Dr. P" (Thornton). Thornton unleashes a beautifully timed barrage of insults and disparagements, and the time we spend with the class is refreshingly funny. But then Roger goes back to his apartment and to his soggy, budding romance with his Australian neighbor Amanda (Jacinda Barrett). Eventually, the plot mechanics kick in -- Roger must learn to stand up to Dr. P and become his own man -- and the movie bogs down even further. Amanda's roommate, the much cuter, funnier and more interesting Becky (Sarah Silverman) would have been worth the effort. Michael Clarke Duncan has a few funny lines as Dr. P's ruthless sidekick ("sorry don't make it manila!") and Todd Louiso is quite good as one of Roger's classmates. Todd Phillips (Old School, Starsky & Hutch) directs, based loosely on a 1960 British film.

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