Thursday, July 05, 2007

School for Scoundrels: Grade D


School for Scoundrels (2006)

Billy Bob Thornton, John Heder, Michael Clarke Duncan, with bits by Ben Stiller and Sarah Silverman. Director Todd Phillips.

Napoleon Dynamite II is what this movie is supposed to be. The earlier movie captured the essence of a young man’s finding his self esteem in about 9th grade. Now the character (played again by Heder) is a young man in his twenties with the same problems of lack of self-confidence, self-esteem, and social skills. He fears he is a chronic loser so he enrolls in a motivational seminar led by BBT. There, he and the other male students are taught to embrace psychopathic aggression, modeled by BBT and his sidekick Duncan. For some of them, self-esteem improves. This long, drawn-out stretch of the movie is tedious in the extreme. The basic idea is stupid: adopt a psychopathic lifestyle to improve your self-esteem, and its dramatization is just implausible and crude slapstick. Nevertheless the story thickens in the last half as our hero develops a relationship with a girl but the sleazy BBT moves in and steals her. Is it just another “reality” teaching technique or is it a genuine double-cross? BBT is foul-mouthed and surly, but without irony. Heder is likewise unenthusiastic, as is the whole movie. The angst of young adulthood is sincerely hinted at, but not developed at all. The Dynamite charm is gone. The DVD interviews with the cast are funnier than the movie.

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