Scoundrel [1935]

Genre: Drama, Film-Noir
School for Scoundrels is the kind of stupid-fun comedy for which the phrase "Wait for the DVD" was invented. Like a lot of its jokes, it fell flat in its brief theatrical release, but there's enough funny stuff here to warrant a look, especially if you enjoyed writer-director Todd Phillips' previous films Old School and Road Trip. Of course, Phillips also directed the comedy remake of Starsky and Hutch, so you know there's going to be as many misses as hits in the movie's constant barrage of slapstick, insults, and tasteless gags. Loosely inspired by the 1960 British comedy directed by Robert Hamer, this crudely Americanized version finds a meek and geeky parking-meter reader named Roger (Napoleon Dynamite's John Heder) looking for love and not getting any, so he enrolls in a confidence-building school led by Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton), who turns out to be Roger's #1 rival in his quest to win the heart of Amanda (Jacinda Barrett), Roger's cute Australian neighbor and the would-be girl of his dreams. As an escalating war of one-upmanship in which Roger's quick learning provokes Dr. P's competitive instincts, School for Scoundrels isn't exactly a laff-riot, but it's got some aces up its sleeve that make it worthwhile, like a crazed appearance by Ben Stiller, a fun if not-always-funny supporting cast (Michael Clark Duncan, Horatio Sanz, Todd Louiso) and a pair of stars who work well together as comedic opposites in the game of love. --Jeff Shannon

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