School for Scoundrels (2006)
Jon Heder in his brief “heyday” stars in School for Scoundrels alongside Billy Bob Thornton, Jacinda Barrett, and Michael Clarke Duncan. Some of the secondary characters are beloved comedic actors like David Cross, Sarah Silverman, Jon Glaser, Matt Walsh, and Luis Guzmán with a too-brief appearance by Ben Stiller. Heder, following the success of Napoleon Dynamite, plays Roger Waddell – a meek and anxious parking enforcement officer in New York. The film begins with his life falling apart – he is humiliated at work, he can no longer be a part of the Big Brother program because the little brothers keep requesting someone else, and while the neighbor he has a crush on (Jacinda) acknowledges him he always makes a fool of himself in her presence.
Roger takes a course with the hopes that he will learn how to be more confident. The class is run by Dr. P (Thornton) and his assistant Lesher (Duncan). All the students are men – some of them are now well-known like Aziz Ansari and Jim Parsons. Dr. P (Thornton) starts the course off by asking the men if they’re losers. A hesitant “yes?” is the reply. His take on losers is that they try self-help where the men in his class have looked to an expert to learn confidence. After all, “If you helped yourself you’re being helped by an asshole.” Throughout the course of the film his character delivers brusque insults, teaches the men to value themselves (and devalue women), and ultimately leaves Roger with the confidence necessary to “get the girl”.
It’s a funny film though I felt deceived by Netflix who utilized an image of Ben Stiller to represent the film and after the film began with no sign of Stiller I kept wonder, “when will he appear?” School for Scoundrels is your typical dorky-guy comedy where someone lacking confidence and self-sufficiency grows throughout not because he wants to be a better person on his own but because of a woman. This is reminiscent of Anger Management (2003) with Dr. P’s teaching style, the relationship dynamic between Roger and Amanda (Jacinda), and the multiple twists leaving you to wonder who’s the real asshole in this situation until the end of the film. Plus, Duncan’s role as Lesher provides additional comedic hijinks.