This movie asks the age-old question: Do nice guys finish last? Kind of the evil twin of last year’s Will Smith romantic comedy Hitch, this, too, is about a life coach who helps awkward, insecure men who want to attain beautiful women. But where Hitch taught them to listen, to be considerate, and to lean just 90 percent of the way into a kiss, Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton) takes the scorched earth/whatever works route. He tells his students to lie, cheat, steal, and, if necessary, blow the competition out of the water.
One of those students is Roger (Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder), as mild as a glass of warm milk. By day, he drives a little car that could be lapped by a golf cart, writing parking tickets. The rest of the time, he pines for his pretty Australian grad student neighbor, the very sweet Amanda (Jacinda Barrett). He is so meek that he ends up not just paying for a ticket he gives to a couple of tough-looking guys, he loses his offical, department-issued sneakers to them as well. He is so unprepossessing that even the kids in the Big Brother program don’t want to spend time with him. He is so unsure of himself that when he tries to speak to Amanda, he keels over like a fainting goat.
So, Roger signs up for a class on how to be tough, manly, and competitive, for $5000 cash payable in advance. But once he starts to show some spirit, and once Dr. P gets a look at Amanda, it becomes a horns-bashing, head-butting, alpha-male battle.
Better at set-up than delivery, this is an underwritten movie with a lot of lags between laughs. Thornton is far better than his material, Michael Clarke Duncan is wasted on an ugly subplot and Sara Silverman, as Amanda’s roommate barely does more than a quick snarl. Heder’s move from playing an adolescent to an adult is uneasy, in part because the script does not seem to have any idea who Roger is. Barrett, using her native Australian accent for once, has a sweet, appealing presence. But the film’s flabby, vague tone gets more enervated as it runs out of ideas.
Parents should know that the movie features extended “humor” about rape. There is some strong language and some scenes take place in a bar. There is some comic violence with a lot of hit-in-the-crotch jokes.
Families who see this movie should talk about why the male characters have so much trouble standing up for themselves and going after what they want. What is the most important thing Roger learned?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Old School (mature material. They might also like to see the British film of the same name that inspired this one.