A critical blurb on the School for Scoundrels DVD case describes the film as "Bad Santa meets Napoleon Dynamite," but I think it's better described as "Bad Santa meets Hitch." Like Will Smith in that film, Billy Bob Thornton plays a "professor" who teaches socially inept losers how to attract women. His advice, however, couldn't be more different: "no compliments, ever," and "lie, lie, and lie some more."
At some point, every guy has complained about the way women seem attracted to men who treat them like dirt, so this is a very promising idea for a movie. School for Scoundrels - sorry, School for Scoundrels: Unrated Ballbuster Edition - does indeed have some big laughs, but it never quite lives up to its premise. Instead of going for humor based on miscalculation, embarrassment, and grossly misplaced intentions, as with either version of The Office, director Todd Phillips (Old School) is content to settle for violent physical humor. Not that there's anything wrong with violent physical humor - I'll admit, I laughed repeatedly during the scene involving paintball guns - but it's rarely enough to sustain an entire film. One scene, in which a sneaker thief gets his comeuppance in an unexpected way, shows what could have been.
Billy Bob Thornton and Jon "Napoleon Dynamite" Heder are perfectly cast as "Dr. P" and a particularly timid student, respectively. But some excellent supporting players, including Sarah Silverman, Luis Guzman, and Michael Clarke Duncan, are woefully underused. And then there's the brilliant David Cross, completely wasted in a small part as Heder's best friend. What is it with filmmakers casting people from Arrested Development, and then failing to do anything with them? (Also see Will "Gob" Arnett in Monster-in-Law.) At least Jacinda Barrett, as the pretty Australian grad student over whom Thornton and Heder do battle, gets to use her real accent for once.
I enjoyed School for Scoundrels just enough to recommend it, but it could have been much better had the filmmakers taken the material to the next level. I have no doubt the filmmakers saw Bad Santa and Napoleon Dynamite before shooting began, but maybe they should have paid closer attention to what made them work so well.