X-Ray cat is back with a look at Todd Phillips' SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS.
Phillips is so cool that he made Austin the final destination for his ROAD TRIP adventurers, so I'm curious to see what he has up his sleeve this time around.
Here's X-Ray Cat (wasn't he one of the Thundercats?)
I recently had the chance to check out a rough cut of the new Todd Phillips comedy SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS.
There hasn't been a lot of info on this, so if you don't know, it's a remake of an obscure 60's British film of the same name, and it stars Jon Heder as Roger, a shy, luckless dope who enrolls in a school that teaches assertiveness, with Billy Bob Thornton as the hardened instructor Dr. P. Things get tricky when Dr. P starts putting the moves on the very girl Roger was hoping to be taught how to win over.
First, the positive.
Todd Phillips is really reaching back to his documentary days here by making a bleak and minimalist comedy that has much more of an indie vibe to it than his mainstream films. You could accurately label it as a dramedy since there are many stretches of the film that drop the jokes and focus on Roger's inability to take chances with his life.
Phillips also knocked it out of the park with casting. I know that going into this, I was basically daring Jon Heder to do another phoned-in Napoleon Dynamite impression so I could write him off as an actor, but in fact, he does an amazing job in a role that's completely different from his debut.
The supporting cast is peppered with great comic talent including Michael Clarke Duncan, Luis Guzman, David Cross, Matt Walsh, Jon Glaser, and Sarah Silverman in her funniest screen role to date.
The only real problem here is the script.
It feels like everyone involved is putting all their heart into it, but on paper it's just a bunch of barely passable jokes and weak romantic buildup. Every 20 minutes or so, it feels like the movie is going to take a sharp turn and go somewhere completely unpredictable and different, but it never happens.
Instead, it just keeps moving towards its inevitable climax, where Roger runs through the airport and gets the girl at the last minute, beating Dr. P at his own game, and learning to love himself, etc. etc. etc.
I would still personally recommend giving this a shot one time through, so you can imagine the movie it could have been, and for the handful of decent laughs involved. Besides, how could you miss it with that cast?
!!! SPOILER !!!
Ben Stiller shows up in the third act as a jilted former student of Dr. P's. He's in "wacky character actor" mode, which is better than "unlucky average joe with a heart of gold" mode, but it still feels like an act of desperation for a movie to pull Ben Stiller out of its ass at the last minute.