© 2008 Ray Wong
At once a buddy flick and a coming-of-age story, Role Models follows the footstep of 40-Year-Old Virgin, but with kids.
Wheeler (Seann William Scott) and Danny (Paul Rudd) are two 30-something guys whose jobs are to go from school to school selling a crappy sports drink. Wheeler is a habitual womanizer and he actually loves his job. But Danny is having an early midlife crisis and he realizes he's been wasting his life. He tries to "fix it" by proposing to his longtime girlfriend, Beth (Elizabeth Banks), who ends up breaking up with him instead.
Unable to deal with his identity crisis, Danny acts out his frustration and lands both Wheeler and himself in trouble. They're sentenced to 150 community service by mentoring kids at an organization run by Gayle (Jane Lynch), an ex-junkie-turn-Mother-Teresa. Danny is assigned to a teenager named Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a socially inept nerd who's into Renaissance reenactments. Wheeler, on the other hand, is assigned to a potty-mouthed kid named Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson).
Danny hates his life, and he hates everything about being an mentor as well. He doesn't care about Augie or anyone else, and he just wants to get the community service over with. Meanwhile, the happy-go-lucky Wheeler is starting to bond with the difficult Ronnie. It turns out Gayle is right, however, that the kids need them just as much as they need the kids.
Paul Rudd (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) has made a name for himself playing the everyday Joe in raunchy comedies. Rudd has the looks to become a romantic leading man, but I have a feeling his heart is in comedy, and he does a good job. Granted, he seems to play similar characters lately. Likewise, Sean William Scott (The Promotion) is basically reprising his infamous Stifler (from American Pie) character, with a little more heart. They're both typecast; their casting is both uninspired and perfect at the same time.
Their counterparts are the nerdy Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad) and wild-child Bobb'e J. Thompson (Columbus Day). Mintz-Plasse practically burst into the Hollywood scene with is wonderful portrayal of "McLovin" in Superbad. Here, he plays a milder but equally nerdy teenager who seems to be stuck in his own little world. He does a good job. Thompson, on the other hand, is outrageous as Ronnie. The things that come out of this kid's mouth is sure to give any parent a heartburn. Thompson manages to make an obnoxious child adorable -- no small feat for a tiny actor.
The supporting cast is dutifully typecast: Elizabeth Banks (Zach and Miri Make a Porno) is earnest and kind as Danny's frustrated girlfriend. Jane Lynch (Another Cinderella Story) is hilarious as the off-kilter advocate for kids. Ken Marino (Reno 911) and Kerri Kenney (Reno 911) have fun playing Augie's parents, and Ken Jeong (Pineapple Express) is remarkably groovy as "King Argotron."
Written by Rudd, Marino, and director David Wain (The Ten) and Timothy Dowling (Evil Hill), the script is rather standard, following a tried-and-true hero's arc. What they do, however, is abandon the normal PG route and go all out with the raunchiness. They manage to mix the family genre with gross-out, sex comedy. They also succeed in tapping into the common theme of "be yourself" with a fresh twist -- the climactic scenes are well played and jovial.
The dialogue is a bit lame, though. And many of the situations are not really that funny. The characters are drawn well enough, considering the genre -- we're not going to expect Oscar-calibre writing and acting here, but the actors all do their job, and they're cast exactly for what they do best.
There really aren't a lot of surprises. And the plot generally lacks certain believability. Danny's final revelation comes off as inauthentic and sudden -- after two months of moping and not caring, suddenly he is willing to put his future on hold just to help out a kid? Right. In contrast, Wheeler's evolvement seems more genuine; his character is definitely a crowd-pleaser.
The direction by Wain (The Ten) is standard and uninspiring. He does the job. No complaint there. The story clips along just fine without a lot of dull moments. There just really aren't any "highs" or "lows." Instead, there is a steady "average" throughout the whole movie, up to the predictable finish. Yet, the film has enough heart to still put a smile on my face. It's just not quite the role model for future "family comedies."
Stars: Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb'e J. Thompson, Elizabeth Banks, Jane Lynch, Ken Jeong, Ken Marino, Kerri Kenney
Director: David Wain
Writers: Paul Rudd, David Wain, Ken Marino, Timothy Dowling
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, strong language and nudity
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 6.6 out of 10