Role Models (2008) dir. David Wain
Starring: Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott
Before "I Love You Man", currently in theatres, the last round of musical chairs from the frat back of comedians was “Role Models”, starring Paul Rudd (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, “Anchorman”) and Seann William Scott (“Old School”). Near unanimous praise for this film has me scratching my head. With familiarity both leads fulfill their assumed roles, Rudd as the neurotic but lovable n’er do well, and Scott the obnoxiously crass manboy. Some decent gags are hit for singles in between an overriding arc of family values and goodness.
Danny (Rudd) and Wheeler (Scott) are a pair of best buds working in a pathetic dead end job promoting one of those Red Bull style energy drinks called Minotaur. The two old buddies have not grown up since their hey days in high school, and for Danny, his emotional stunting has resulted in the break-up with his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks, again). Just when things are at their worst, their reckless behaviour causes them to trash their Minotaur truck, thus sentencing them to 150 hours of community service.
Their court-ordered good deeds comes in the form of a Big Brothers-type charity called 'Sturdy Wings'. Danny is teamed up with an uber-nerd Augie (Christopher Mitz-Plasse) whose life has disappeared into dungeon's & dragons culture. Wheeler is teamed up with a foul-mouthed kid who mentally abuses his mentors without impunity. Both kids test the patience of the cynical duo, but without knowing it, gradually learn how to mature without compromising the distinctiveness in all of us.
As usual for the genre the supporting characters take over the leads in the second act, a time when films like this inevitably struggles through laboured plotting. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, fresh off of "Superbad", plays Augie, the same character as his breakout role, except even geekier. He’s a teenager who is ridiculed by everyone even his parents for his uber-geeky participation in a medieval club (the unofficial rock bottom of loserdom) Bobb'e J. Thompson, who plays the foulmouthed trouble-child, offers some of the most absurd inappropriate gags, including a penchant for the f-word and calling all white people Ben Affleck. And Jane Lynch, who plays the ego-proud founder of the Sturdy Wings organization, steals almost everything in the film.
But the best of them all are the pathetic renaissance losers who antagonize Augie with their geek superiority. Ken Jeong who plays King Argotron is frequently a minor player in the Judd Apatow/Adam McKay/Will Ferrell bunch having had spot roles in "Step Brothers" and "Knocked Up" as is Joe Lo Truglio ("I Love You Man", "Pineapple Express", "Superbad") who plays Argotron number one knight Kuzzik.
"Role Models" is the mainstream conventionality breakout film for David Wain who, in addition to writing and directing odd perverse TV comedy like the sketch show "The State" spun his wheels with old school raunch-fests "Wet Hot American Summer". Perhaps something more in the middle of these two films would have made this stick better with me. If I were to rank "Role Models" against the other films of it's ilk, it certainly wouldn't reach the comic heights of "Knocked Up" or "Anchorman", perhaps a notch below "Saving Sarah Marshall", and on par with "I Love You Man". Enjoy.
"Role Models" is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment