School for Scoundrels

Bomb Rating: 

As much as director Todd Phillips and every "Napoleon Dynamite" fan on the face of the earth want Jon Heder to be able to carry a movie, he just can't.

"School for Scoundrels" is that film one watches thinking about all the things it could have been and none of the things it is. It's a movie that wants to be a dark comedy, but can't because it's rated PG-13. Were it rated R, "School for Scoundrels" might have been something interesting, even tolerable. However, like all those tepid horror movies rated PG-13, "School for Scoundrels" can't be what it really wants to be. It's like watching a boxing match where the guys are covered in bubble wrap. Fighting should involve blood. Dark comedy should involve serious cruelty.

As much as director Todd ("Old School") Phillips and every "Napoleon Dynamite" fan on the face of the earth want Jon Heder to be able to carry a movie, he just can't. He's lightweight. He weighs less than David Schwimmer, and that's light. If Heder were any lighter, he'd float away. Heder plays Roger, a guy whose man bits are so tightly pinched that he can't even work up the courage to ask out his neighbor, Amanda (Jacinda Barrett).

When Roger learns of a secret class for guys like him, his problems are solved. Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton) teaches men to be men. The class is filled with wimpy losers with various problems. Dr. P teaches them to take charge. He reveals the secrets of how to get a woman, which include not giving them compliments and lying to them.

Roger turns out to be the star pupil, putting all of Dr. P's advice to use, and even saving his classmates during a paintball game by taking out Dr. P's menacing assistant, Lesher (Michael Clarke Duncan). However, when Dr. P feels threatened and decides to pursue Amanda, Roger's new confidence is really put to the test and he must use everything he's learned to battle Dr. P.

With every word of dialogue, you can see Billy Bob Thornton straining to let out that inner bad Santa only to have the realization that he's not in that movie wash over him like acid rain. It's almost pathetic. It's like watching a Ph.D. in Communications take a job reading courtesy phone announcements at the airport.

Quite frankly, I wish the MPAA would get rid of the PG-13. It's like an excuse to make bad movies. Maybe it's okay to use for a PG movie that's a little bit too violent, but when it's used to drag a movie that would work better as an R down to a PG-13 level, it's incredibly irritating. It's like asking for a shot of whiskey and getting a shot of water instead.

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