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Technobriefs

School for Scoundrels

2.5 Stars

This movie stars the ever-impressive Billy Bob Thornton as the nefarious Dr. P and Jon "Napoleon Dynamite" Heder as the hapless Roger. It was written by Todd Phillips & Scot Armstrong and directed by Phillips (the team "responsible" for Starsky & Hutch, Old School and Road Trip).

Let me digress a moment. I don't know if Jon Heder is the world's best actor, or if what we see on the screen is his natural affect (I have never seen or heard him interviewed), but in either case, he's a genius, the inheritor of a long line of letter-perfect character actors. Long after pretty boys and action heroes are forgotten, these unsung second bananas and sidekicks will rule our memories of the movies. Heder is ready to join William H. Macy and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the pantheon of the modern greats. Of course, he needs a middle initial or name, like the great character actor of the 40s, Franklin X. Pangborn--the man behind the desk or counter in a million films in the 30s and 40s whose distinctive delivery was instantly funny.

And, for that matter, Billy Bob Thornton may be the best evil person of his generation. He certainly does a remarkable portrayal of evil in this movie.

You know how sometimes a movie seems to be more than the sum of its parts, and sometimes less? This one seemed to be less. There was one genuinely hysterical scene, on the airplane and the end. I was guffawing to the point of disturbing the other patrons in the local multiplex.

It was hard to assign stars to this. I enjoyed it, I wasn't sure, it isn't exactly Academy Award material, I looked at the other films that got three stars, and wondered "is this as good as them" But in the end, the deciding factor was the length. It was 105 minutes. Now, thank god, that's not 120 minutes, but it's still 15 minutes too long for a comedy. Get a clue, Hollywood!