School for Scoundrels

Opens at Metor and other theaters, Fri., Sept. 29. Rated PG-13. 101 minutes.

The latest from Old School director Todd Phillips updates the 1960 original (which was based on Stephen Potter's series of how-to-get-ahead novels) about a man of little confidence who enrolls in a class he believes will teach him self-reliance; in short, it's Bad Santa meets Napoleon Dynamite, quite literally. The latter, Jon Heder, plays a New York City parking-enforcement officer named Roger. Heder plays Roger not so much as someone devoured by insecurity but as a kindly simpleton who wears kiddie pajamas and mumbles whenever in the presence of the woman down the hall with whom he's infatuated (Jacinda Barrett). A friend suggests Roger enroll in a class taught by a mysteriously monikered Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton); in it are other neutered men-children who live with their grandmothers and take no for an answer. But Barrett's character is the MacGuffin with as much charisma as a McMuffin; she's just there to bring together and yank apart Roger and Dr. P, who spend the film's final half fucking with each other until the inevitable scream of "Uncle!" Their shenanigans, though, are never terribly nasty. Phillips at least has that much in common with the first man to direct School in 1960, Robert Hamer—an affinity for restraint in the drawing of blood. ROBERT WILONSKY

 
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