School for Scoundrels (2006) Recap

Jamie

I was pretty sure we had already watched School for Scoundrels for BMT before. I dreaded having to tell Patrick that, alas, his bad movie memory (BMM) must be shot when he picked this out as the first entry of Merde. Duh, don’t you remember, it’s the one where Billy Bob Thorton is a big ol’ bully… and it co-stars that guy who made it big off that high school comedy a few years earlier… oh wait, that was Mr. Woodcock. And there you have it: this film is a perfect encapsulation of a very precise moment in film history. So precise that I mixed it up with the other Billy Bob Thorton film. So let’s get into it.

Jon Heder is a wimp. He’s got a huge crush on a girl, Amanda, who doesn’t know who he is, his job sucks, and people walk all over him. A friend suggests he take a class by Mr. P on how to be a more assertive person and when he does, guess what? It actually works! Suddenly he’s having great dates with Amanda, he’s standing up for himself at work, and everything is looking up for Job Heder. Nothing can go wrong! He’s going to live forrreeeevvvver. That is until Mr. P decides that he doesn’t like how assertive Heder is getting, so it’s time for him to steal his girl and ruin his life. But uh oh, the student is becoming the master and Heder ruins his life right back. It’s just a comedy of ruining everyones lives. Isn’t it fun to watch people’s lives fall apart? Ha ha ha… ha… oh… ha… yeah. Anyway, when Mr. P and Amanda start to get serious Heder takes things into his own hands and digs up all the dirt on Mr. P’s terrible deeds. Confronting Mr. P and Amanda on a plane, he pretends to have a panic attack forcing Mr. P (who is pretending to be a doctor) to administer aid. Realizing that he’s a big ol’ Liar McLiarton, Amanda dumps the zero to get with the hero… and by hero I mean Heder. THE END.

I actually found myself digging the first half of this film. Heder is charming in his own way and you can kinda believe he is who he’s playing: a nice guy who is finishing last. And the comedy chops that surround him in the film are legit nuts. Every single person in the class and then many in supporting roles are top tier talent. It’s mind blowing. At one point you’re watching the film and you’re like “wait, is that Jim Parsons?… of Young Sheldon fame?… and they don’t even give him a line? But he’s Old Sheldon!” And you’d be right. The back half? Not as much. Pretty unpleasant actually as Mr. P is a monster and ruins Heder’s life. They even do a fake out where they pretend he’s not a monster for a second and I was like “noooooo,” because it just wasn’t right that they would attempt to redeem the piece of shit. But they didn’t pull the punch at least. Overall a pretty mixed bag.

Hot Take Clam Bake time: we see Heder and Amanda vacationing in Miami at the end (speedo and all) and so we are led to believe that they are together for the long haul. Guess what? I’m not buying it. Why? Cause Heder has no talents as far as we can tell. He was a meter maid who got fired for (allegedly) sexually harassing his boss. What is he up to next? Answer: not much. And guess who Amanda just fell for? An old man who was pretending to be a surgeon. What happens when she meets a decrepit old surgeon for real? She’ll be out of there so fast he won’t know what hit him. It lasts three months tops. Hot Take Temperature: Parmesan Garlic. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! School for Scoundrels? More like Uncool and Down-drels! Amirite? How was Jon Heder a star of films again? Just seems wild that he went from barely acting in Napoleon Dynamite to headlining multiple major comedies for about 5 years there. Let’s go!

  • Yeah, speak of the devil, Heder is terrible. He isn’t really a comedian. His delivery is flat and for the most part he can only play one character (waifish weakling characters who ultimately find inner strength).
  • All the while the supporting actors in this film are all a who’s who of soon-to-be incredibly famous television comedians. Multiple eventual headliners. It makes me feel insane to think Heder was wandering around on that set, when they could have probably just got David Cross to do it better.
  • And I liked Napoleon Dynamite and I like Heder in general, he just can’t do the heavy lifting needed to actually make this movie consistently funny. He needed a Will Ferrel type to play off of in scenes … that actually could have been a good storyline. The School for Scoundrels gives everyone a brash obnoxious buddy to help them out. Heder hates Ferrel who, obviously, proceeds to ruin his life to some degree. In the end though they realize they are good friends, can lean on each other, and that they are, in fact, precisely what they need. And what is revealed? That that is the school for scoundrels! They have a corresponding School for Nice Guys for assholes like Ferrel to go to, but the formula is the same: you can help each other become a little better. Friends! Is it a better film? I don’t know. It is different. But Heder needed help I think is the main issue.
  • While not as kind hearted as the original British film, it is a lot nicer than I expected. I expected it to be a horrorshow of early 2000s awful humor. It was instead mostly nice, with only the ending really dipping in quality.
  • The ending does kind of ruin it though. You have to have Billy Bob Thornton be secretly nice! It is kind of the idea. That he’s teaching you the tricks you need to get ahead, but that he is not actually a scoundrel.
  • Decent Product Placement (What?) for Heder’s standard issue New Balance shoes he gets stolen in the beginning of the film. And a Setting as a Character (Where?) for New York City. Otherwise probably closest to Bad for me, but that might be colored by having watched and loved the original.
  • Speaking of which, the original School for Scoundrels from 1960 is great! The structure of the film is interesting, with the first part of the main character getting dunked on being told in flashback. Then basically a montage sequence at the school for a short middle. And then a mirror image of the main character dunking on all of the people who wronged him at the end. And the whole thing is ultimately very sweet. It did probably make me like this one a bit less.

Read about the School for Scoundrel sequel School for Scoundrels: Friendship is Magic (Literally), in the Quiz. Cheerios,

The Sklogs

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