Will the nice guy fight for the girl of his dreams? Or will he accept defeat with his tail between his legs?
“School for Scoundrels,” set to be released in theaters Sept. 29, is the classic “nice guys finish last” tale with a wacky, inventive twist. Roger, the lead role played by John Heder(of “Napoleon Dynamite” fame), is a sweet but nervously shy New York City meter maid who doesn’t have a lot going for him.
His panic attacks prevent him from asking out his Aussie love interest Amanda, played by Jacinda Barrett.
And bullies at work continue to make his job a nightmare.
After being rejected by a third “little brother” at the Big Brother program, Roger’s superior Ian, played by David Cross, gives him a phone number that changes his life. In desperation, Roger calls the number.
The mysterious voice on the other end is known only as Dr. P, played by Billy Bob Thornton. Dr. P runs a top-secret confidence-building class for the less-than-average Joe, who needs a boost in his life.
The students are made to perform zany tasks to improve their social skills. They are constantly monitored by Dr. P’s assistant, the intimidating Lesher, played by Michael Clarke Duncan.The motley crew of a class includes characters played by Horatio Sanz, Andrew Daly, Todd Louiso, Matt Walsh and Paul Scheer. When Roger starts to excel in the class, Dr. P takes notice and cannot stand the competition.
Just as Roger’s relationship with the ever-patient Amanda begins to blossom, Dr. P takes matters into his own hands and pursues her as well. Roger catches wind of his once trusted teacher’s plans and all bets are off as a hilarious battle to win the girl ensues. The movie’s funniest scenes involve the entire class.
Each student has a ridiculous back-story that propels their emotions. Matt Walsh’s character has one goal: to move out of his mother’s basement, while Horatio Sanz’s character confesses to being verbally abused by his wife.
Thornton’s character is a complex type of villain. Viewers are so intrigued by his mysterious, cool identity that they can’t help but love him at first. But, as the plot progresses, his diabolical nature becomes apparent.
“This character operates from his head, not his heart,” Thornton said in recent telephone interview, as he compared his character to other “mean guys” he’s played in movies such as “Bad Santa” and “Bad News Bears.”
“To play someone who’s that calculated is great. I’ve played a couple of a – holes but they all had heart. He’s a crocodile. It’s not easy to do.” Compared to his Napoleon Dynamite character, Heder is surprisingly heroic as the romantic lead.
“I have no problem with having Napoleon
Dynamite as my starting point,” Heder said in a nationwide conference call. “I like the characters that are a little bit weird. Dorks and nerds have more conflict.”
Socially-awkward Roger is very relatable for audiences, making them root for him even more. “It was great playing a lead that wasn’t Napoleon,” Heder said. “It’s kind of nice to play a more normal character. [Roger] … is not that far from who I am. Although, I hope I’m not that much of a loser.” Heder added that he wanted the chance to work with Billy Bob Thornton.
The on-screen relationship between Roger and Amanda is very real. Their first few conversations are so uncomfortable, they will make you cringe.”[Jacinda Barrett] wasn’t too intimidating, really friendly. She was actually almost like a sister.
She was pretty fowl, always telling dirty jokes, which kind of breaks the ice a bit I think,” said Heder, of his Australian co-star. Although Amanda is an enticing character, it was disappointing that her role tended to be very one dimensional. Despite this, Amanda does redeem herself with some saucy moves by the end of the movie.
In the end, Heder said he learned that “[A man should have] gusto, principles. Live by what you believe in. Practice what you preach, … and you’ve got to be willing to make a fool out of yourself for the good of man kind.”
Cristina Perachio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.