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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.82%
Worth A Look56.82%
Average: 27.27%
Pretty Bad: 6.82%
Total Crap: 2.27%

5 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Role Models
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by Erik Childress

"Take The Kids To See Their First "R"-rated Film."
4 stars

As the chain of Adam Sandler comedies have become increasingly less inspired despite some high comedic concepts, the clan of Judd Apatow have maintained their success since The 40 Year-Old Virgin using some of the most base, unoriginal plotlines on record. How much was left of Apatow’s screenplay for You Don’t Mess with the Zohan is anyone’s guess (I would guess about as much as Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor’s contributions to I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry), but I have full confidence with Apatow pulling all of Sandler’s strings in next year’s Funny People. No more appropriate title could there have been either when you consider that for all the credit Apatow gets, his hands in the proverbial dough are directly atrributed to the actors he surrounds himself with. So associated have they become with his repertoire that directors like Greg Mottola (Superbad) and Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) fail to get their just due and others (like Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno) are lumped in (and that’s certainly no knock) even with no association other than adopting of few of his regulars. David Wain’s Role Models is likely to suffer that same fate, but once again, that’s a compliment since it can both stand proudly alongside the recent spate of vulgar R-rated comedies and provide definitive proof why we no longer laugh at Sandler’s films.

Danny (Paul Rudd) works for an energy drink company. Part of his job involves driving around to schools with his friend, Wheeler (Seann William Scott), who dresses up as the Minotaur mascot, to promote this “poison” as he begins calling it to children. At this point in his life Danny could be the star of Mike Leigh’s Sad-Stop-Unlucky, unsure of his direction and everything revving up his bother, most hilariously in a coffee shop where he calls out their menu language on behalf of a grateful nation. After Danny loses it and tries to escape a tow truck (still attached to the company’s Minotaur-laden gas guzzler), him and Wheeler are arrested. Danny’s recently-exed girlfriend, Beth (Elizabeth Banks) is a lawyer and informs them of their options which involves jail or community service spent in the care of a Big Brother program.

Sturdy Wings’ peppy manager, Gayle Sweeny (Jane Lynch), a recovered addict in her own right gives Danny and Wheeler a short leash in which to work from. Danny is teamed up with Augie Farks (Christopher Mintze-Plasse), a live-action role player who spends all his time in full costume and character. Wheeler is paired with Ronnie Shields (Bobb’e J. Thompson), a full-mouthed child who has lost more than a few Big Brothers in his time. Their first few days together, as expected, don’t go so smoothly. Ronnie is a constant aggravate and Danny doesn’t understand with Augie is saying half-the-time and sees the company he keeps as a bunch of weirdo losers who take their game more seriously than the cast of Uwe Boll’s In the Name of the King. Eventually though, the frost will begin to fade away as Danny and Wheeler discover outlets into their boys’ happy thoughts as well as the home lives that have put them into the program in the first place.

That just made Role Models sound like some pale dramedy when its anything but. It’s a base comedy that manages to play well above the usual base, unafraid to go for its “R”-rating with its language and not just for the cheap laughs of a child swearing or his obsession with boobies. Seann William Scott isn’t stretching here as he did earlier this year with the underrated and underseen, The Promotion, toning it a complete 180 from the Stifler persona he’s most recognized for from the American Pie series. This is more of the Bo Duke territory and Scott has no problem milking his sexed-up life glider for good solid laughs. Paul Rudd, on the other hand, has truly become one of the best comic actors alive today. We’ve known this for years, particularly as his career has made the shift into the Apatow repertoire, but it would be a mistake for his fans to equate what he does as just the usual Rudd shtick. Each role is an individual performance and Rudd knows just where to place his delivery on the dial to avoid copying himself. His scene in the coffee shop is a highlight reel unto itself, but he’s in no way a selfish comedian and he plays exceptionally off of Scott as you’ll see in scene after scene, particularly in the scenes with Lynch when she rattles off her former dietary habits.

This is David Wain’s third directorial effort and having worked in sketch comedy and the very funny internet series, Wainy Days, it’s clear he’s of the share-the-wealth variety. Wet Hot American Summer and last year’s spotty, but occasionally very funny, The Ten, featured large ensembles of comic personalities and even got some priceless moments out of Live Schreiber and Jessica Alba. Role Models gives plenty of time to its two leads, but clears several paths for scene stealers at every turn. Christopher Mintz-Plasse may be stuck with the nerd typecast for a while but shows he’s got enough moxie to separate himself from the McLovin label (at least while you’re watching him here.) Ken Jeong (who played the insensitive doctor in Knocked Up) has great fun as the fantasy land King who relishes his title just a little too much. The State’s Joe Lo Truglio and Ken Marino (as well as Veronica Mars, Reaper, etc..), Reno 911’s Kerri Kenney-Silver, the all-too-short Dog Bites Man’s Matt Walsh and A.D. Miles. All of them get a laugh or two. Only Elizabeth Banks, who has been so great in The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Kevin Smith’s recent Zack and Miri Make a Porno, is saddled with the straight role. She’s present in very funny scenes but is given little to do. And I still don’t know what to make of Jane Lynch’s fascination with a bagel dog.

But it’s a gag like that which would have been a highlight in a Sandler film instead of just some throwaway moment (inexplicably called back during the end credits) that makes you wonder about their sanity. Even when Role Models is seemingly setting us up for a standard courtroom scene where everyone testifies on behalf of Danny and Wheeler, it twists things around to give us a finale of such proper inspiration that even if we see it again it’s impossible not to appreciate the big entrance that precedes it and how lovingly they throw themselves into this Darkon-like world and embrace it instead of mocking it. LARPing may see an increase in membership after Role Models. What originally looked like another foray into Big Daddy Day Camp territory becomes certainly one of the top five or six comedies of the year and proof that even the simplest of humor can have its day when its handled by pros of this magnitude.

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originally posted: 11/07/08 16:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2008 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2008 series, click here.

User Comments

5/26/09 peter not very funny. just about mclovin's fantasy world. dumb 2 stars
4/25/09 Monday Morning This movie sucks. Badly. 2 stars
3/18/09 ES So many laughs plus a respectable salute to both LARP and hills shaped like breasts 4 stars
3/14/09 action movie fan bobb,e thomson was very good but the rest were mediocre-film not that funny 2 stars
12/25/08 Justin I usually hate Stiffler but I thought he was good in this one. 4 stars
12/21/08 Bailey Excellent job on the casting. Good laughs all the way through - finale was awesome. 4 stars
11/24/08 George Barksdale Haven't had a good laugh at a movie in a long time, very funny 4 stars
11/20/08 Colleen H I was sobbing from laughter. Juvenile, but screaming funny. 5 stars
11/12/08 Koitus Harsh language through-out; but very funny. A few "classic" scenes (stinky-pinky for one)! 4 stars
11/10/08 Susan funny movie if only for paul rudd. seann william scott isn't as funny with his usual schtic 4 stars
11/10/08 Samantha Pruitt REALLY funny, had me laughing through the whole movie, Ronnie and McLovin are hilarious!!! 5 stars
11/10/08 stephen goodridge mclovin was awesome 5 stars
11/09/08 Brian Mckay Predictable, yet Fucking Hilarious. 4 stars
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  07-Nov-2008 (R)
  DVD: 10-Mar-2009


  DVD: 10-Mar-2009

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