So you're a pushover, lack guts to go after the one you love, and rely on stacks of self-help books to tide you over your pathetic life. Wake up! Genuine help is on the way! Be a lion! Get what you want! Welcome to the School for Scoundrels!
OK, I think I sounded a little too enthusiastic for this movie, but that's basically the premise of this remake. Yes, it's another remake from Hollywood, and it's no surprise that this one just coasts along on material that seem a little uninspiring and with a premise only all too familiar - the usual loser needs lessons to hook up with hot babe story, with a twist.
Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite, The Benchwarmers) stars as Roger, who's a complete loser in a dead end job, relies on books to instruct him on life's lessons, and has the hots for his neighbour, Amanda (Jacinda Barrett, last seen in The Last Kiss). However, being innately shy, he lacked the guts to pursue her, until he signs up for an ultra secret course called the School for Scoundrels, led by Dr P (Billy Bob Thornton) and burly henchmen Lesher (Michael Clarke Duncan).
Naturally, the crux of the jokes are from the lessons derived from Dr P's unorthodox teaching methods, for these shy students to graduate into slick operators, and there are a few genuine laugh out loud moments (like the reference on the babies). However, most of the jokes relied on sexual innuendoes and slapstick, which have been tried and tested before, coming across as familiar rather than ground breaking funny. If you have seen a lot of comedies of such nature, then you'll find it difficult to have your funny bone genuinely tickled.
Directed by Todd Phillips, who also helmed comedies like Road Trip and Starsky & Hutch, despite its shortcomings on the laughter front, I thought it was relatively well paced, with drama, comedy and enough tension rolled into one. You'll more or less guess the outcome of the story, but trust me, I did get fooled, well, almost. Jon Heder, as always, is effective as the Loser, while Billy Bob Thornton probably lived up to his real life notoriety in this role as the teacher up to no good.
School for Scoundrels worked by using a sprinkling of gems along the way, so pay attention to that little dig on Angelina Jolie, and that appearance by Ben Stiller. Yes, that's him! But no, even having probably Hollywood's #1 funny man of the moment, failed to lift this movie from mediocrity and familiarity.