by Mel Valentin
If you’re idea of funny of hilarious includes a foul-mouthed, profanity-spewing, f-bomb throwing ten-year old, then "Role Models," a formulaic buddy comedy co-written and directed by David Wain ("Wet Hot American Summer," the “State” comedy troupe), the same writer-director who brought moviegoers "The Ten," ten vignettes loosely structured around the Ten Commandments, last year, will probably get a kick out of "Role Models," a raunch-filled buddy comedy. If, however, you checked out "The Ten" and found it, at best, uneven, and at worst, execrable, then you should probably skip "Role Models" and find another way to spend your hard-earned money.Danny Donahue (Paul Rudd, who also co-wrote) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott) are energy drink salesmen who travel around local schools to lecture children about the evils of drug abuse while pitching their product, Minotaur. Danny does most of the talking. Wheeler fills out the Minotaur costume, gives the occasional cheer, and serves as Danny’s foil on their drives to and from schools in their Minotaur monster truck. While the skirt-chasing, hard-drinking Wheeler loves his job (it’s a stress-free paycheck), Donahue wants more out of life. After “celebrating” ten years at the energy-drink company, Donahue proposes to his girlfriend, Beth (Elizabeth Banks), a lawyer getting restless at Donahue’s inability to commit to a more permanent commitment (i.e., marriage).
"A rude, crude, R-rated comedy with a soft center."
After Beth rejects his impromptu marriage proposal, a distraught Donahue, hopped up on energy drinks, gives a speech extolling the virtues of drug use to high schoolers. Fleeing the high school, he crashes the Minotaur truck into a statue on school grounds. Charged with several felonies, Donahue and Wheeler must complete 150 hours of community service in a month’s time or face jail time. Donahue and Wheeler “volunteer” to be “Bigs” to “Littles” in a Big Brother-type foundation, Sturdy Wings. By the luck of the draw or, more likely, the machinations of the foundation’s director, Gayle Sweeney (Jane Lynch), Donahue becomes a Big to Augie Farks (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a socially awkward, introspective teen geek who runs around in a cape and carries a foam sword around (he’s into sword-and-sorcery costume playing). Wheeler gets a profanity-spewing, pint-sized, ten-year old, Ronnie Shields (Bobb'e J. Thompson).
From there, it’s one gag- and joke-filled joke after another, after another, and after another. Rudd and Wain satirize or, to be more accurate, attempt to satirize, everything from energy drinks to volunteer organizations to uncaring parents to role-playing games. Everything is held up for vicious mockery, with the exception of the gentle spoof Rudd and Wain save for seventies rock band KISS. Wheeler’s love for KISS extends to a KISS pinball game inside his apartment and the four leads dressing up as KISS during the climactic scene. The jokes are, by turns, crude, vulgar, obscene, and, more often than not, obvious. The crudity extends to overusing Ronnie and his penchant for F-bombs and women’s breasts for “R-rated” humor.Still, given Rudd and Wain’s previous effort, "The Ten," a woefully unfunny comedy that featured an entire sketch about prison rape (it’s even more excruciating to sit through than it sounds), "Role Models" is practically a comedic masterpiece. Of course, Rudd and Wain couldn’t help themselves and included another joke about prison rape, but at least it’s just that: one joke among others. Rudd and Wain were also smart enough to let "Role Models"] ride on the chemistry between the leads. While Bobb'e J. Thompson gives a weak performance (he’s ten acting like he’s 20 after all), Seann William Scott plays true to man-child type, Rudd manages to give Donahue an inner life (yes, you read that correctly), and Christopher Mintz-Plasse makes his geek, cosplay-obsessed character warmly sympathetic, McLovin-style (i.e., his much-lauded performance in "Superbad").
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originally posted: 11/07/08 10:00:00