School For Scoundrels

School For Scoundrels (2006)
Genius Products
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Heder, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jacinda Barrett, Ben Stiller
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Alternate Ending, Gag Reel, Theatrical Trailer

For a young company such as the Weinstein Company and their home video arm Genius Products I have to admit that I am increasingly impressed with the films released by the company. They may be small but they sure know how to pick a good movie as most of their releases are a good notch above average. Point in case, "School For Scoundrels," starring Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder that is making its DVD debut here as the "Unrated Ballbuster Edition."

Roger Weddell (Jon Heder) is a repressed young nerd who has dreams in his life but just doesn't have what it takes to pull them through, let away to the world he's facing. One day a friend urges him into taking a confidence-building class and he ends up with Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton). Dr. P has a very unconventional style of teaching – mostly by insulting his students and throwing them into situations they are barely able to handle. Aided by Lesher (Michael Clarke Duncan) what first seems like an exercise in humiliation and chicanery actually begins to yield results after some time – though at the expense of some bloody noses when Dr. P forces his students to engage in sudden confrontations.

Roger quickly bubbles to the top as one of the best students and he feels he can really pull his life around. He even pulls all his strength together to ask Amanda (Jacinda Barrett) our for dinner, who lives down the hall. Things are looking good for Roger, but then he realizes that Dr. P has begun dating Amanda and begins to systematically tear down Roger's confidence. Fortunately Roger is at a point where he no longer allows people to walk all over him and he pits himself against his teacher. Quickly the rivalry spins out of control as the student prepares to teach the tutor some harsh lessons.

Directed by Todd Philips, the film is filled with some great laugh-out-loud moments. First they are more subtle as we see Roger as a loser but once the fight is on against roger and Dr. P the writers take off the gloves and go for the jugular. With brutal insults and pranks the film had me giggling and laughing almost constantly thanks to Thornton's almost stoic characterization and Heder's nerdy determination. Complemented by a cast that features Michael Clarke Duncan, David Cross, Horation Sanz and Sara Silverman, as well as an extended cameo by Ben Stiller, this film has a wonderful flow and feel that lets you forget entirely that the story is actually pretty predictable and not exactly new.

The DVD features a clean widescreen transfer that is without blemishes and defects. It offers up a good level of detail and rich colors that bring the streets of New York City to life. Skin tones are naturally rendered and deep, solid blacks give the image good visual depths. Shadows are finely delineated adding to the quality of the image while edge-enhancement is entirely absent. The compression is without flaws also, making sure the image details remain intact at all times while color saturation remains faithful.

The film is accompanied by a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track that perfectly serves its purpose. It is not overly aggressive, as much of the film is driven by the dialogues, but still the track engages surround channels frequently for additional effect and create a wider, more engaging sound field.

As extras you will find a commentary track on the disc, featuring director Todd Phillips and writer Scot Armstrong. The track is full of valuable information and entertaining tidbits. Not exactly scholarly, the track still manages to get across a lot of information about the movie's production as well as the collaboration of the actors on the set and behind the scenes, making for a great addition to the release.

Next up is an alternate ending for the movie. While this ending is sweeter than the one in the final film, I find the one in the movie the better one. It has more punch – quite literally – and ends the movie in much higher spirits without being as overtly romantic as the alternate ending.

A gaga reel is also there with a few minutes of bloopers, though many of them appear to be funny more as a result of the editing than the actual event.

A 30-minute featurette is also included and it sure is funny. It is kind of a counter-featurette in which everyone is just talking silly and nothing is serious. The actors talk about how they expect their Oscar nominations for these parts, how the director actually has no funny bone at all and that the film is funny by sheer accident and so forth. It is a really enjoyable featurette and worth a spin.

The DVD is rounded out by the movie's theatrical trailer.

"School For Scoundrels" is a fun flick that I thoroughly enjoyed. Thornton and Heder are perfectly cast as guys on the opposite end of the spectrum, colliding in this big rivalry in which nothing is off limits. Make sure you give this film a try some time.