In the earlier part of his career, Billy Joel warned fans that “Only the Good Die Young.” Many years later, Green Day echoed Joel’s sentiment with “Nice Guys Finish Last.” Not wanting to be outdone by the music industry, film jumped on the bandwagon releasing movies filled with warnings that virtuous men do not succeed. In 2000, there was the ultimate subversive Generation X ode to male angst, David Fincher’s Fight Club and while that film did rehash some of the same ideas vocalized by musicians, it still seemed too extreme for most audiences who preferred instead to watch white-collar workers exact revenge on copiers in Mike Judge’s Office Space. But what if, however, fax machines and sucker punches wouldn’t solve your problems and all a guy wanted was a date? In this surprisingly funny remake of the 1960 British comedy, a perfectly cast Billy Bob Thornton (reason enough to rent the film) runs his own tailor made School for Scoundrels educating the meek on how to take what they want, kick butt first, and take names later. When panic attack-ridden meter reader Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) develops a crush on his beautiful Australian neighbor (Jacinda Barrett), he enrolls in what he assumes is a simple confidence building workshop but gets more than he bargained for when Thornton senses a prodigal student and rival in Heder and sets his sights on the exact same girl. While the clever premise falls way to jokes escalating in their outrageousness, the film works primarily because of Thornton and some amusing small turns by Sarah Silverman, David Cross and Ben Stiller. The DVD features an alternate ending that I actually preferred to the one included in Phillips’s theatrical release but it was probably deemed too melodramatic and reminiscent of Garden State (and therefore not keeping with the macho rival tone of the film) to be included—still rent the disc and decide for yourself.
Songs Featured in School for Scoundrels