Starring: Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Jane Lynch
Directed by David Wain
3.5 out of 5 stars
After skewering teen movies and the Bible in two of this decade’s best comedies, “Wet Hot American Summer” and “The Ten,” director David Wain has set his sights on another topic ripe for parody: the inspirational buddy movie.
Though “Role Models” occasionally falls prey to the conventions of the genre where little kids and adults learn from each other, “Role Models” is an incredibly funny film that proves, once and for all, that Paul Rudd is one of the funniest people working in movies today.
Rudd plays Danny and Seann William Scott plays Wheeler, two guys who sell an energy drink called Minotaur as a way to keep kids off drugs. Danny hates his job where he has spent 10 years and his life in general, whereas Wheeler loves every minute of it and spends his days chasing women. After Danny breaks up with his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) and blows a Minotaur speech at a school, he manages to get in trouble with the law in a scene that Carbondale residents will love, which involves sticking it to a tow truck driver.
Anyway, the two guys are sentenced to 150 hours of community service at Sturdy Wings, a big brother- type program where older people mentor younger people. Danny’s kid is Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who is obsessed with a role playing game called FAIRE, and Wheeler’s kid is Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson), a foul mouthed troublemaker that has gone through several big brothers.
Needless to say, they all learn from each other and it leads to a super happy ending. But what makes “Role Models” different from other movies of this type is its vulgarity and the fierce edge it brings to the material. It’s not a cutting satire or anything like that, but because Danny, wheeler, and the kids are on the fringe of society, they are far more interesting than simply kids with troubles. They drink, smoke, go on camping trips, and debate the sexual connotations of KISS songs. Danny and Wheeler don’t treat the kids like they are kids, and that makes the film all the more refreshing, because it’s not condescending or dumbed down.
A large bulk of the film is taken up by the FAIRE role playing game, which is essentially “Lord of the Rings” re-enacted in parks with plastic swords. It’s funny to watch because the scenes are played as deadly serious, and director Wain doesn’t make fun of these people who clearly think that this is the most important thing in the world. The final battle, in which Augie and Danny finally take charge, is the film’s funniest scene, especially when several party members are killed off.
The film is filled with wonderful comedic performances, Rudd and Scott among them. Jane Lynch, as the ex-druggie who runs Sturdy Wings, nearly runs away with the movie during her moments. And though Plasse essentially plays McLovin again, he stil gets big laughs, as does Thompson, who will be a big celebrity one day.
The film is perhaps not as funny as it could have been, and it drags a bit in the middle while the characters catch up with the plot. We certainly could have done without the evil parent characters that always pop up in movies like this, although they are funny in and of themselves.
“Role Models” is no masterpiece of comedy the way “Wet Hot” was, but it’s still pretty funny and worthy of a matinee ticket. Just don’t expect to look at buddy movies the same way for a while.