Role Models (2008) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for crude and sexual content, strong language and nudity
Running time: 99 min
Cast: Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb'e J. Thompson, Elizabeth Banks, Jane Lynch, Ken Jeong, Ken Marino, Kerri Kenney-Silver, A.D. Miles, Joe Lo Truglio, Nicole Randall Johnson, Alexandra Stamler
Director: David Wain
Screenplay: Paul Rudd, David Wain, Ken Marino, Timothy Dowling
Paul Rudd (Knocked Up, I Could Never Be Your Woman) and Seann William Scott (Mr. Woodcock, Ice Age: The Meltdown) star as Danny and Wheeler, a couple of pitchmen who spend their days giving speeches to school children to stay off drugs by drinking their product, Minotaur. After a mishap in which they crash the company truck and destroy school property, the two are given a choice between jail time and 150 hours of community service involving acting as mentors to troubled youth.
They opt for the latter, with Danny assigned to the role-playing geek named Augie (Mintz-Plasse, Superbad), who spends so much time absorbed in a sword-n-sorcery battle reenactment group that he has little time or interest in anything else, including reality. Meanwhile, Wheeler's misfit youth is Ronnie (Thompson, Fred Claus), a potty-mouthed tyke whose views on life are more adult than most adults, getting him into heaps of trouble for his vulgar commentary and disrespect for authority. With the threat of jail looming should they fail, it's going to take every effort to turn these boys into men. If only the mentors weren't so immature themselves they might succeed.
David Wain directs this bro-mance, a bit less absurd than his Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten, with mostly successful results. This success lies mostly in the promised delivery of laughs, helped immensely by cast chemistry and somewhat more comedic depth to characterizations than most straight comedies made today. Paul Rudd, who also contributes to the screenplay, makes for a perfect straight man to costar Seann William Scott's crazier antics, giving the film the root in disgruntled normalcy it needs in order not to be just another fluffy comedic distraction built on getting laughs for the moment and nothing more. Wain refreshingly doesn't try for anything more than to be true to the characters and their potential for funny interactions, not injecting false romance or heavy-handed soul searching.
Role Models will be compared to the works of Judd Apatow, not only because of its R-rated adult humor, but also due to its cast of Apatow regulars. Paul Rudd and Jane Lynch (Talladega Nights) will remind viewers of their appearance in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Christopher Mintz-Plasse may forever be associated with his memorable turn as McLovin in Superbad. Ken Jeong (Knocked Up) recently appeared in The Pineapple Express. If you're an avowed Apatow fan, you will probably find Role Models, while falling short in terms of quality characterizations, doesn't fall far off the mark in its delivery of humor.
The film isn't without the occasional lull, especially as it spends an inordinate amount of time lampooning the live-action role playing world. There is a feeling that the material is spread thin once you get beyond the main premise, and yet, the laugh quotient is sufficiently high enough to merit a recommendation to those who enjoy a spirited raunchy comedy now and then. The premise itself is a bit of a stretch, as it would seem that the last people you'd want to mentor troubled youth would be troubled adults who've never quite grown up themselves. Alas, looking this deep into it isn't warranted, and one can claim Role Models a coming-of-age film for the adult characters as much as the youngsters.
©2008 Vince Leo