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Genius Products presents
"Roger, I used to be just like you. But look at me now, I'm awesome! I run this entire place. I'm dating TWO Asian chicks!"
DVD ReviewIt's tough to find good old-fashioned laugh-heavy comedy these days. So it's a shame School for Scoundrels from director Todd Phillips (Old School) couldn't turn its star-studded lineup and director's pedigree into box-office success; one would think teaming Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder with Billy Bob Thornton would put plenty of rear ends in seats. Now on DVD, this has cult comedy classic written all over it.
Roger Waddell (Heder) is mired in a dead-end job as a parking patrol officer. After being abused by a parking ticket recipient and rejected by the "Little Brother" group he volunteers for, he is tipped off by his friend Ian (David Cross) about the ultimate self-improvement class. Run by "Dr. P" (Thornton), this class is more of a boot camp for losers, complete with the muscular drill instructor Lesher (Michael Clarke Duncan). Armed with newfound confidence, Roger finally asks his lovely neighbor, Amanda (Jacinda Barrett) out on a date. They instantly hit it off, but Roger's confidence is dashed, once again, when Dr. P puts him to the ultimate test.
I expected to be mildly amused, but this turned out to be a rich, hilarious experience. The story is as straightforward as it gets, and 107 minutes is a bit long for this sort of fare, but the result is proof that a group of actors having fun can carry a film. This is most evident in the movie's centerpiece; an unfriendly game of paintball masquerading as a class field trip. The combatants don't even get a chance to spread out before they're shooting each other from five feet away. The genuine fun doesn't stop here, though, as a scene involving mace in an elevator and one with Jon Heder blasting Billy Bob with tennis balls further exhibit the genuine fun these actors were having on the set.
It was a pleasant surprise to see comedic genius David Cross' name during the opening credits. Leave it to Cross to play a nerdy guy with a razor sharp wit, delivering a handful of unforgettable, brutally funny lines.
A few members of the ensemble are underused (namely, SNL-alumnus Horatio Sanz), but this is a relative who's who of topnotch if not mainstream comedians. There's also Sarah Silverman, Matt Walsh, Todd Louiso, and an extended cameo by Ben Stiller doing his crazy guy thing as only he can. Everyone involved is in top form regardless of their screen time, keeping this on the edgy side of humor.
The only disappointment is the drawn-out ending. Instead of concluding this touching, funny story in a brisk and tidy manner, there are far too many twists and turns, leaving the audience more confused than engaged in the characters' fate (see the alternate ending among the extras for a much better finale).
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is virtually flawless, with any potential grain and dirt giving way to crystal clear, detailed images. The color scheme offers nothing spectacular, but the hues displayed serve the material just fine, aided by good contrast and black levels. There's also some nice shadow detail and accurate fleshtones throughout.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: A Dolby Digital 5.1 mix delivers the goods as one of the more boisterous comedy soundtracks you'll hear. Not only is the music rocked out of all speakers, but the sound effects, especially during the paintball sequence, pack a heck of a punch as well. Aggressive bass plays a huge part in this, but nothing gets in the way of the dialogue.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Fan Boys, Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker, Scary Movie 4
1 Alternate Endings
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writer/director Todd Phillips and writer Scot Armstrong
Packaging: Keep Case
There's also a four-minute alternate ending that is an interesting and more effective airport sequence. This shorter and sweeter finale works much better than the one in the final film, in that it's more emotionally fulfilling.
The Making-of You Didn't See on TV is a 19-minute short that combines interviews and on-set footage to craft one of the funnier pieces of its kind. Much of its charm can be attributed to the interviews with David Cross and Sarah Silverman, who are both funnier than ever.
A hilarious two-minute gag reel and the original theatrical trailer round out the extras.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsWhile far from the funniest thing out there, School for Scoundrels knocked me for a loop with its surprising blend of laughs and emotion. You can't go wrong with the eclectic casting, and director Todd Phillips builds upon past successes to deliver his most heartfelt comedy yet. The disc is just as impressive, with excellent audio, video, and supplements, including a nearly 20-minute making-of that is just as funny as the film itself. Dubbed the "Unrated Ballbuster Edition", this version runs seven minutes longer than the theatrical release, with new footage that probably would have landed the latter an R rating.
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