Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I recently said, and mind you this is the absolute height of pathetic-ness that I’m paraphrasing myself, but I recently said that foreign movies, particularly those out of South Korea are quite cool in that you have no idea how they’re going to resolve themselves since they tend not to follow formula. American movies for the most part follow formula as if formula were a religion with the challenge for the American filmmaker being to somehow entertain you while his or her audience knows with almost pure certainty how the movie will progress and how it will end. Man, that’s gotta be hard to do. This brings us to the movie ‘Role Models’ which is a comedy that sticks to the basic formula tighter than those race cars we used play with as kids stuck to the preset grooves on that plastic track. Might I say that director and co-writer David Wain recognized the challenge of entertaining me within the tight confines of ‘the formula’, faced that challenge and heavens to Betsy, my man kicked that challenges ass. And who in the hell is Betsy anyway?

Wheeler (Seann William Scott) and Danny (Paul Rudd) are a couple thirty something’s who spend their days visiting local high schools schilling this realities version of Red Bull under the guise of ‘keeping them off drugs’. Wheeler is of the mindset that this could possibly be the greatest job ever which fits just perfectly in his world which includes free lovin’ and the bare minimum of responsibilities. Danny on the other hand has seen his life slip beyond his control which has made him an asshole. He is unnecessarily rude to a gourmet coffee house clerk which prompts his longtime lawyer girlfriend to dump him. This woman, Beth, is played by the silkily lovely Elizabeth Banks in what I believe is the forty fifth movie I’ve seen her in this month. Go get that money girl. Anyway, Danny does something bad during one of the high school shilling sessions which lands Danny and Wheeler stuck doing community service for 150 hours to avoid jail time.

This lands our pair at the doorsteps of the big brother program Sturdy Wings and their proprietor, the rather acerbic Gayle Sweeney (Jane Lynch). Wheeler gets stuck with the profanely violent ten year old Ronnie Shields (Bobb’e J. Thompson) while Danny has to deal with the fantasy world existing Augie Farks (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Mind you that formula doesn’t waver in the slightest as man and boy don’t get along, man and boy find common ground, man and boy find love in a non-gay, non-pedophile way, man screws up relationship with boy leading to man and boy reuniting to glorious victory. And of course the man who lost the girl will get the girl back again. It just has to be that way. I’m sorry if I spoiled it for you.

So when I’m guessing if one is working with a scripted formula that sticks as tightly to the formula as ‘Role Models’ does, the best opportunity you have to show your stuff is when the movie starts before the formula kicks in. I gotta tell you, the first twenty five minutes or so of ‘Role Models’ is about has funny as it gets. Seann William Scott might not be the rangiest actor in the world but when the dude is doing what he does, he’s pretty damn funny. Now I don’t know if Wain and them were making fun of those medieval dudes, or maybe paying respectful homage to them as they were represented by the Xanthian Army, because lord knows they probably take that whole thing way too serious, but that was funny as hell to. Or perhaps I should say ‘funny as heavens’ as a young man who I know who abstains from using any kind of profanity would say. And you can never go wrong with putting Paul Rudd anywhere in your movie as he is the Jeff Kent of actors giving you a guaranteed .300, 25 home runs and 100 plus RBI every time out. Where in the heavens are you going to find critical analogies like this people? All of the performances were very good in this film as Wain certainly didn’t try to stick any square pegs in round holes in this movie. Bobb’e J. Thompson played the bratty kid, just like he’s played in everything I’ve seen him in, Christopher Mintz-Plasse played the pushed around nerd, Jane Lynch played the salty inappropriate older woman, Elizabeth Banks does the pretty love interest better than anybody working today and Seann William Scott is still Stifler, ten years and counting.

The problem with ‘Role Models’, of course, is that as it becomes more formulaic as it goes on it becomes less funny. The good thing is that never completely stops being funny, but it does sacrifice to convention. But we forgive the movie for this because my only requirement before slipping in any alleged comedy DVD disc is the hope that the movie make me laugh, and ‘Role Models’ did this from the time it started to almost until the final scene. Personally I couldn’t ask for much more.

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