Summary Judgment: 'School For Scoundrels,' 'The Last King of Scotland,' 'The Guardian'

Slate contributor Mark Jordan Legan sums up what the nation's critics are saying about this week's new movie releases — School For Scoundrels, The Last King of Scotland and The Guardian.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MIKE PESCA, host:

On Fridays, the online magazine Slate compiles a digest of what critics are saying about the week's new movie releases. This particular compilation of hearsay evidence is compiled by Mark Jordan Legan, who brings us Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: First up is the wide-release raucous comedy School for Scoundrels, a remake of a classic 1960 British film. Billy Bob Thornton plays an instructor at a secret school that teaches the weak how to take charge of their lives and become winners, no matter what. John Heder and Ben Stiller also star.

(Soundbite of film "School for Scoundrels")

Mr. BILLY BOB THORNTON (Actor): (As Dr. P) Now, in those bags are 15 semi-automatic, high-powered paint-ball guns. It is time to kill or be killed.

Unidentified Man (Actor): (As character): It says here to maintain a minimum distance of 100 feet between shooter and target though.

(Soundbite of gun firing)

Unidentified Man: (As character) Oh, my God!

Mr. THORNTON: (As Dr. P) Now, does anybody else want to read their gun?

LEGAN: Wait for the DVD release, is pretty much what the critics suggest. Rolling Stone likes it, calling School for Scoundrels uproarious and unexpectedly biting. But the Hollywood Reporter snarls, an inert an muddled mash-up of romantic comedy and theater of stupid cruelty. And Newsday calls it a battering ram of rude encounters that aspires to be a romantic comedy.

Next up in limited release is the political thriller The Last King of Scotland. Forest Whitaker stars as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, who hand-picks a Scottish doctor on a medical mission to be his personal physician and confidante. James McAvoy and Kerry Washington also star.

(Soundbite of film "The Last King of Scotland")

Mr. JAMES McAVOY (Actor): (As Nicholas Garrigan) Do you want something for the headache, sir?

Mr. FOREST WHITAKER (Actor): (As Idi Amin) No.

Mr. McAVOY: (As Garrigan) Something to help you sleep, perhaps?

Mr. WHITAKER: (As Amin) Later. I want you to tell me what to do.

Mr. McAVOY: (As Garrigan) You want me to tell you what to do?

Mr. WHITAKER: (As Amin) Yes. You are my advisor. You are the only one I trust (unintelligible).

LEGAN: The nation's critics praise the film and absolutely rave about Forest Whitaker. The New York Post shouts, a vital, visceral film with Whitaker's sometimes-funny, sometimes-frightening, always-commanding performance. USA Today says, Whitaker is astoundingly multi-faceted and convincing as Idi Amin. In the performance of his career, he fully inhabits the part. And Newsweek roars, Whitaker gives a chilling performance in this intelligent, sometimes gruesome thriller.

And we close with the wide-release action drama, The Guardian. Kevin Costner plays a rugged Coast Guard leader, training young recruits for the top-level rescue swimmers unit. Ashton Kutcher and the Atlantic Ocean star.

(Soundbite of movie "The Guardian")

Mr. KEVIN COSTNER (Actor): (As Ben Randall) Fish. Why are you here, Fish?

Mr. ASHTON KUTCHER (Actor): (As Jake Fischer) I'm here to exceed your expectations, Senior Chief. I'm a rescue swimmer at heart, born, bred and water-fed. Oo-rah!

Mr. COSTNER: (As Randall) Wow. I bet you practiced that all morning.

LEGAN: The critics pretty much find The Guardian drowning in a sea of clich├ęs. Even though the Chicago Tribune thinks it delivers a sturdy popcorn movie and a few genuine thrills, USA Today speaks for the majority with, assuming you've seen An Officer and a Gentleman, Top Gun or any of the basic-training films Hollywood churns out, you've seen The Guardian. Also be warned, critics complained of the two hour 15 minute running time. But I'm sure those extra 15 minutes are vital to the plot - you know, close-ups of Kutcher in a wet suit, Kutcher toweling off, Kutcher blow-drying his hair. Okay, yes, I admit it. Like most of the male population, I've got Kutcher envy.

PESCA: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.