REVIEW: Role Models [2008]

“Taste the beast”

I need to look into the plethora of comedies coming down the pipe for who wrote and directed them. I watched the trailer for Role Models and thought it looked funny enough. But it was Seann William Scott—don’t get me wrong, he’s pretty good, I just didn’t have it high on my list, even though my boy Paul Rudd co-starred. So, here I was, months later and finally ready to take a peek, and the starting credits just made me excited for what was to follow. I had no idea that the crew behind “The State” were integral in the production, both writing and starring. Whether my memory of that show holds up to its actually enjoyment, I don’t know, however, what they have been doing lately has been comic genius. Even in the more subtle collaborations like Diggers, the laughs were big and the comedy worthwhile. Thankfully, director David Wain and co-writer Ken Marino brought the star of that film over, Rudd, to help them once again. The guy is pure gold these days and even though this new film is pretty run-of-the-mill story-wise, the characters and antics are anything but.

Two man-childs screw up on the job, (performing at school auditoriums to sell kids on an unhealthy energy drink to take the place of narcotics), by disrupting the peace, destroying property, and abusing a police officer. Rudd’s Danny’s girlfriend, who broke up with him just before the incident, is a lawyer and gets jail time reduced to community service for the Sturdy Wings organization, (got to admit I really like the logo for this made-up entity in the film). Danny and William Scott’s Wheeler find themselves paired with the two toughest cases in the program: Augie Farks, a nerdy teen who entrenches himself in a live-action D&D world called LAIRE, and Ronnie Shields, a foul-mouthed grade schooler from a single mother home, acting out to push all those who try and reach him away. Assigned by Wings founder Gayle Sweeney, (the always memorable Jane Lynch in another gem of a role as an ex-drug addict prostitute who found her calling in “servicing” the children); they are set up to fail to be sent to the big house. While Wheeler begins to enjoy time with a child as crude as himself, Danny can’t get out of his funk, a depression that continues to escalate, as he can’t even bring himself to call his co-worker a friend … they just work together.

The interactions with Augie and Ronnie, (Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Bobb’e J. Thompson respectively), are definitely the high points of a very funny film. I hate to say that McLovin’ will forever be typecast as the loser geek—his nasally voice and gawky features don’t help the fact—but, for now, it’s working for him. Wearing a cape and fighting grown men in costumes who speak old English, Augie is both embarrassing and endearing, showing a side of us all, that need to be unique and different, to escape the monotony of our horrible lives, no matter what cost to our own public image. As for Thompson’s Ronnie, you won’t get anything funnier. This kid is fantastic: cussing, slapping people in the face without warning, and bringing out the cute when necessary. I don’t know whether to condemn or condone the parents of this boy, because he’s definitely got something, I’m just not sure if it is morally right to let him have it. Both boys, though, fit right into the craziness of the movie, bringing out the inevitable discovery of Danny and Wheeler’s need to dismantle their selfish selves, and adding fodder for and the creation of multiple laugh-out-loud moments.

Supporting this foursome team is a lot of familiar faces, many who have worked with each other before. Lynch is a staple in this genre and joining her are a couple guys that have been cropping up lately too. Both Ken Jeong, (as the King of LAIRE), and Joe Lo Truglio, (a fellow countryman of Augie’s), add some awkward brilliance to that thread of the story. You may remember both from bit parts in Pineapple Express … someone needs to get the Apatow gang and “The State” gang together for a film. As for members of that troupe, Ken Marino and Kerri Kenney have fun as Augie’s parents, director David Wain himself tries to play the acoustic guitar, and even “UCB” alum Matt Walsh comes to join in the fun. Let’s also not forget the beautiful Elizabeth Banks as Danny’s love. She may not be integral to the humor, but she is the rock that his character works towards, and thus becomes a reason for some of the insane activities that occur.

Yes, the kooky kids and their inclusion in the sordid ways of two screw-up adults would be funny anywhere, but add in the medieval wars, the teaching of an eleven year old on how to disguise his cleavage viewing, and the cryptic words spewing from Jane Lynch’s mouth each time she’s onscreen, (along with her prize volunteer weirdo A.D. Miles), and you can’t lose. References to pop culture are infused throughout, adding a level of relevance as well. We have Kiss entering the land of LAIRE, Rudd quoting every romantic film his character has seen, a gut-busting joke at Harry Potter’s expense, and even a mention of Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s own regular Marvin Hamlisch. Sure its obvious, sure its vulgar, (I did view the un-rated version), but there is enough heart and an abundance of quality laughs to make checking Role Models out a good move.

Role Models 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

[1] Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott and Bobb’e J. Thompson in Universal Pictures’ Role Models (2008) Copyright © Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
[2] Jane Lynch stars as Gayle Sweeney in Universal Pictures’ Role Models (2008) Copyright © Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


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