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ROLE MODELS (2008) *** movie review by COOP

Posted on November 12th, 2008
Posted on November 12th, 2008


Adult screw-ups put in charge of children… This is a familiar comedy concept. “Meatballs,” “Ernest Goes to Camp,” “Bad News Bears,” all these films were edgy for their time. Compared to David Wain’s new R-rated comedy, “Role Models,” they are downright sanitary. Wain and Co-writer Paul Rudd deliver a raunchy comedy with heart, even if it’s not the most polished R-rated comedy currently in theaters.

Danny (Rudd) and Wheeler (Scott) are two irresponsible energy drink promoters who run afoul of the law and must complete 150 hours of community service. To fulfill their obligation, Danny’s lawyer/ex-girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) sets them up with a Big Brother-like program called “Sturdy Wings.” Wheeler gets a foul-mouthed fifth grader named Ronny (Bobb’e J. Thompson) who delights in tormenting his mentors. Danny pairs up with the shy and withdrawn teen, Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who is obsessed with “L.A.I.R.E,” a live-action Dungeons and Dragons-type game. With kooky program director Gayle (Jane Lynch) watching their every move, Danny and Wheeler must learn to connect with their protégés or face serious prison time.

Paul Rudd excels at nailing dry, sarcastic humor and he doesn’t disappoint here. His character, Danny, is both cynical and self-loathing. He can’t even begin to hide his lack of enthusiasm for his new responsibilities, which sets him up to deliver many hilariously deadpan lines. Seann William Scott also doesn’t disappoint as the hard-partying, womanizing Wheeler. He plays off of Rudd so effortlessly, it’s easy to imagine them teaming up again for a follow-up comedy.

Somebody needs to wash Bobb’e J. Thompson’s mouth out with soap. He’s like Richard Pryor reincarnated in a little kid’s body. He does have some funny, very adult lines but director Wain doesn’t allow him to steal the show out from under from Mintz-Plasse. The usually fantastic Elizabeth Banks gets very little screen time which I found disappointing. However, dependable comedy actress Jane Lynch gets plenty of camera time as the ex-drug-addict, Sturdy Wings program director. Her habit of inappropriately referencing her illegal past and her confusing attempts at dishing out tough love account for some of the film’s funnier moments.

Christopher “McLovin” Mintz-Plasse wins the best role as a kid who only feels at home in his fantasy world. His parents and even Danny at first mistake him for a socially maladjusted nutcase. Little do they know that hundreds of others share his enthusiasm for the game, giving him a strangely healthy social circle to interact with. When the focus of the film switches over to him in the third act, I almost wished he had been the main character. At this point, the tone also switches from raunchy, R-rated comedy to a sweet underdog story, on par with films like “Dodgeball” and “Napoleon Dynamite.” Although the blue material is often hilarious, I would’ve preferred the story focus entirely on Augie’s storyline. It owns the heart of the film and carries it to a strong finish.

One surprising effect this film may have on audiences would be raising interest in LARP (Live Action Role Playing). Yes, it actually exists. No doubt, seeing grown men and women dressed in Medieval garb and swinging plastic swords seems silly and the film does poke fun at this in the beginning. Once the final battle begins, the filmmakers make it easy for the audience to buy into the fun when the main characters come up with an ingenious plan to psyche-out the competition (hint: It involves the rock band KISS). The passion the characters put into the game give the film an edge of geeky coolness as Augie fights the evil King Argotron in an attempt to win the respect of his friends, family and the elf girl he has a crush on. I’m willing to bet new groups of LARP players will start popping up all over the country due to its generous exposure in “Role Models.” There’s a great moment when Rudd mock-slays one of the film’s villains, who finally breaks character and says to Rudd, “Isn’t this fun? You should sign up on our email list!” Fun indeed.

Despite the fun I had with “Role Models,” it’s not a well-crafted film. The humor is often random and many of the jokes fall flat. The story wanders all over the place and has difficulty in finding its pace. The filmmakers couldn’t decide whether to stick with the R-rated raunch or a sweet PG-13 story. Despite these problems, I still enjoyed this one. It’s a crowd pleaser and I’d recommend it to anyone who can handle hearing a ten year-old kid curse a blue streak. If you can’t, go rent “Meatballs.”

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Here’s the red band trailer (WARNING! EXPLICIT LANGUAGE)…

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