Role Models

  • David Wain
  • 2008

You, like me, might roll your eyes at the sight of another comedy of men behaving like teenagers and being bad influences on the next generation. We’ve been spoilt by much of Judd Apatow’s output and there’s always the fear be stuck with too many copycat movies offering little in the way of genuine humour. It’s pleasing, then, that Apatow regular, Paul Rudd, and Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse follow up their involvement with the successful comedy creator with more zany antics which err the right side of stupid to produce characters who display heart.

Paul Rudd’s star has been in ascent since his performance as Brian Fantana in Anchorman, though it is only with Role Models that he has really got the chance to take the lead both as the co-star and co-writer with director David Wain. He plays Danny, a salesman full of self-loathing and driven to delirium after being dumped by girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks) who finds him too controlling. He and his sales partner Wheeler (Seann William Scott), a womaniser who dresses up as a Minotaur as part of their pitch to sell an energy drink to school students, go on a bender fuelled by the drink they are selling as Danny tries to get over his break up only for Danny to trash both the company truck and school property. The pair are hauled in by the police and must either do time in jail or clock up 150 hours as mentors for troubled children. With Danny full of pent up hate and Wheeler unable to avoid a flirt with a girl, they hardly make for the ideal role models, and sure enough the two kids they are supposed to look after don’t make their community service easy.

Credit to the writers for focusing their energies on creating amusing characters who develop throughout the movie.

While the broken Danny and reluctant Wheeler are typical comedy archetypes, Role Models scores highly thanks to the two youthful additions to the cast: Mintze-Plasse as a nerdy, medieval battle re-creator Augie and Bobb’e J. Thompson as the hyperactive and foul-mouthed Ronnie. Augie’s social reliance on fighting armies with fake swords by storming non-existent castles in fields delivers a hilarious take on its culture while also giving a sweeter side thanks to Augie having a love interest and the power struggle he faces against rival army leader King Argotron (Ken Jeong). Danny struggles to understand this sub culture, trying to get Augie out of the activity he enjoys so much with typically disastrous results as his mentee gets more and more frustrated with a man doing nothing to help him through life. Wheeler, meanwhile, goes from being the jock (as ever with William Scott) to being patronised by someone half his age and making a mockery of his lifestyle. These four are a joy to watch, taking pot shots at each other’s flaws or misunderstanding their lifestyles completely, and this is used cleverly at the end when the plot demands ends meet up nicely.

The showdown sees Danny and Wheeler join in the action on the fantasy battlefield with Augie, an extended sequence which combines sight gags, slapstick and character in-fighting to expert effect. Credit to the writers for focusing their energies on creating amusing characters who develop throughout the movie up to a situation that is both silly and entirely relevant, rather than opting for the oft-used tactic of putting them in ridiculous situations which try to force the laughs: throughout Role Models the laughs are genuine in a comedy which should cement Rudd’s reputation as a comic force and show Mintz-Plasse is more than a one-movie actor.

Role Models is out to buy on DVD from Monday, May 11th.

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