Plot: What’s it about?
Roger (Jon Heder) always seems to end up on the losing end of things, in romance, in confrontations, and at work. He gets pushed around by his coworkers, bullied by the owners of the cars he tickets, and even though his dream girl is within reach, he can never make his move. The object of his affection is Amanda (Jacinda Barrett), a gorgeous Australian woman who happens to live in his building, in the same apartment as the abrasive Becky (Sarah Silverman). Roger tries to be a good guy, but even his little brother from the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program wants to ditch him. After seeing him fail so many times, his friend Ian (David Cross) gives him a phone number and tells him the answers to his problems await. As it turns out, the phone number is to register for a secret class, taught by Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton). Dr. P teaches his students how to stop being pushovers and become lions, with a curriculum that endorses lying, cheating, and whatever else needs to be done. Roger is hesitant at first, but soon starts to master the classes and soon, even gets a date with Amanda. But when Dr. P decides to test his mettle by going after Amanda himself, can Roger use what he has learned to win Amanda for himself?
This is yet another remake, but at least in this case, the original wasn’t a high profile picture. I’ve seen the 1960 version School for Scoundrels and while it is very British in design, it is still quite a humorous movie. I expected this new version to be another low brow, dumb comedy, since that is the recent trend in comedies. As it turns out, School for Scoundrels isn’t low brow in the gross out sense, but it is still a lackluster picture. I don’t think this is a terrible movie, but it isn’t a good one and despite a talented cast, the movie just isn’t that humorous. Billy Bob Thornton is usually great, but he comes off as tepid here, as if he isn’t interested in the material, while Jon Heder is miscast beyond belief. He fits the role of hapless loser to perfection, but the transition of the character is totally lost on him, a poor casting decision. And since he has the main role, he drags down the entire movie, although Ben Stiller’s small role is almost as hard to watch. A few moments stand out as decent and a few laughs can be had, but School for Scoundrels fails on most every level. I have no idea what this unrated version adds in, as there is no nudity or extreme violence, but fans of the movie might appreciate whatever is new. I hoped for the best with School for Scoundrels, but I was disappointed all around, leaving me unable to recommend this release.
Video: How does it look?
School for Scoundrels is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. In truth, I found minimal flaws here and while not as sharp as I would like, the image isn’t too soft. The colors look bold and vivid at all times, with no errors at all and flesh tones look good also, always natural in scope. I found the contrast to be as impressive, with razor sharp black levels and no visible detail loss at all. The print shows some very small defects, but nothing to be concerned about, not by any means. This isn’t quite a perfect visual treatment, but it is darn close and I think all viewers will be thrilled with the overall presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is your basic comedy mix, driven by dialogue with a little power here and there to spice things up. The music sounds superb, with dynamic presence and excellent range, really adding life to the mix. I was pleased to hear some additional surround use also, for various subtle sound effects at times, which enhance the atmosphere more than a little, to be sure. No issues on the dialogue side, as vocals are clean and clear from start to finish. This disc also includes subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An audio commentary is up first, as director Todd Phillips and writer Scot Armstrong discuss the production. This is a simple session, one that is more about stories about the cast than technical insights. But hey, the movie is shallow, so I guess technical data wouldn’t have been of much use in this case. In any event, if you liked the movie, then you’ll probably like listening to these two over praise this clunker. This disc also includes an alternate end sequence, a special unrated behind the scenes piece, a reel of outtakes, and the film’s theatrical trailer.