"School for Scoundrels" (Weinstein) -- which has been adapted from a superior 1960 British film starring Terry-Thomas -- is a dreary and contrived story about sad-sack parking-meter cop Roger (Jon Heder), who, to win the heart of pretty Australian neighbor Amanda (Jacinda Barrett), takes a confidence-building course taught by taskmaster Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton), only to have the motivational instructor try to steal her for himself.
The class is full of insecure, trembling milquetoasts like himself, and of course by film's end, after being indoctrinated by Dr. P to be assertive and confrontational -- a stance bolstered by Dr. P's thuggish sidekick, Lesher (Michael Clarke Duncan) -- they'll have banded together to help Roger win back Amanda. (There's a distasteful running implication that rape might be among Lesher's strong-arm tactics.)
Director and co-writer Todd Phillips' putative comedy is almost completely devoid of laughs, indifferently paced, and inconsistent in its character delineation. How is it that nerdy Roger, who can barely throw out the garbage, proves himself a tennis ace when he inserts himself into a match with Dr. P and Amanda, slamming several balls into Mr. P's vulnerable areas in a particularly mean-spirited and unfunny episode?
The film's one-upmanship rivalry between student and mentor which, in other hands, might have been clever, never ignites. The script (co-written with Scot Armstrong) tries to have it both ways (painting Dr. P as both villainous and oddly likable), but it simply doesn't work.
Ben Stiller has a mildly amusing cameo as one of Dr. P's former students, and Sarah Silverman adds a little juice as Amanda's sardonic roommate. Otherwise, you'll want to play hooky from this "School."
The film contain much profanity, rough and crude language and humor, a brief implication of premarital sex, sexist banter and innuendo, adultery and some violence. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
These movies have been evaluated for artistic merit and moral suitability by the media reviewing division of Catholic News Service. The reviews include the CNS rating, the Motion Picture Association of America rating, and a brief synopsis of the movie.
The classifications are as follows:
A-I -- general patronage;
A-II -- adults and adolescents;
A-III -- adults;
L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. L replaces the previous classification, A-IV.
O -- morally offensive.
Note: Some movies previously were designated A-IV. Older films with this classification should be regarded as classified L.