By Jas Singh
From Step Brothers to Knocked Up, we’ve seen countless films focus on men who refuse to grow up, only to finally come of age by the end. On the surface, Role Models has a fairly predictable plot, but what makes it memorable is its sharp dialogue and hilarious performances. Oh, and having a foul-mouthed 11-year-old spew expletives every chance he gets doesn’t hurt either.
Longtime friends Danny (Paul Rudd, Knocked Up) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott, American Pie) work together promoting the energy drink Minotaur to children as an alternative to stay off of drugs. Danny, a man down on life and working what he considers to be a dead-end job, seems to find fault in everything and everyone. Wheeler, dressing up as the company mascot, has absolutely no complaints. When Danny’s girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks, 40-Year-Old Virgin) finally leaves him, he has a meltdown, placing both men in a dilemma: go to jail or perform community service.
They find themselves at Sturdy Wings, a Big Brother-like program, mentoring children who have their own life problems. Danny is paired with Augie Farks (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Superbad), a socially awkward teenager who finds joy in live action role playing games. Wheeler gets stuck with Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson, The Tracy Morgan Show), an 11-year-old in body only, whose words are just as foul-mouthed as any modern comedian. How the men and the kids learn from one another forms the crux of the entire story.
Rudd, who also has writing credits on the film, once again proves that he can carry a film on his presence alone. He’s been a supporting actor for far too long, from Clueless to Knocked Up, but he really shines here. His chemistry with Scott and Mintz-Plasse, his sarcastic wit and his deadpan delivery are a joy to watch.
While Scott did have a few stints at PG-13 comedy, it’s nice to see him return to the world of R-rated films where his comfort level lies. If anything, Scott’s Wheeler channels a bit of his American Pie Stifler, but manages to keep it grounded in reality and not be so mean spirited. It’s amazing to watch Wheeler in his scenes with Ronnie, as both share the same intellect and interest in women.
The film would be nothing without Mintz-Plasse and Thompson. Mintz-Plasse, of McLovin’ fame, portrays almost the same character. He’s still an awkward teenager, but unlike McLovin’ before him, he isn’t confident with himself. He knows he’s an outcast and chooses to live in his own fantasy world. His scenes with Rudd provide the most heart, as Rudd teaches him to be comfortable with his own persona. And then there’s Thompson, a relative newcomer to the scene. It’s hard to imagine a child at any age sputtering profanities and insults at someone, but after a while, one comes to accept Ronnie in all his foul-mouthed glory.
On paper, Role Models sounds like a direct-to-DVD attempt at humor, with its fish-out-of-water story mixed with a coming of age tale. But the film works, surprisingly so, due to some excellent writing and standout performances. Role Models can be added to the already impressive lineup of comedies from 2008.