Role Models
Is there really any doubt who’s the bottom in this relationship?

Theatrical Release Date: 11/07/2008
Director: David Wain
Cast: Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Jane Lynch, Ken Jeong, Joe Lo Truglio

While every comedy these days seems to be touched by the hand of Judd Apatow, “Role Models” is brought to us by David Wain of “The State” fame and co-written by star Paul Rudd. Honestly, I couldn’t really tell the difference though … and these days that’s mostly a good thing (“You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” still makes me cringe).

In “Role Models”, Rudd and Stifler … er, I mean, Seann William Scott – end up being convicted of a few criminal acts. They are to be spared jail time (and therein some tough “love”) as long as they complete community service hours volunteering as big brothers for some needy kids via the “Sturdy Wings” program.

What could actually be the plot to a gut-wrenching indie film about loss and redemption is (via Wain and Rudd’s script) turned into an oddball comedy whose sweet message of loving who you are still shines through even through all the over-the-top hijinks.

Heading up “Sturdy Wings” is wry comedy maven, Jane Lynch (who continually manages to play some of the most politically incorrect authority figures). She gives them the two most difficult cases: a socially awkward live-action role playing nerd (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and a foul-mouthed, booby obsessed pre-teen (Bobb’e J. Thompson).

As is to be expected, there are a few initial difficulties as they all adjust to one another but they find common ground and form that special bond we all hear about in commercials or from that hippie down the street.

Along the way to discovery these touchy-feely truths, the kids’ outlandish behavior provide the brunt of the comedy. While Rudd and Stifler … I did it again … While Rudd and Scott are the comic veterans (in comparison), Mintz-Plass, and especially Thompson, steal the show. What can I say, it’s always funny to let children swear and hit adults (don’t worry, I won’t be having any of my own).

While the kids may be the stars, there are plenty of other adult comedians to round out the picture. The omnipresent Elizabeth Banks has found her way into another film this fall and perhaps the most surprising thing about this year’s comedy “it” girl is that she’s chosen good projects all around. Her role here is much more of a supporting one but as much as I enjoy her performances, I’m getting close to overload and would like at least a few weeks before another Banks performance comes my way (her next release will be at the end of January in the horror film, “The Uninvited”, so I think I’ll be okay).

Ken Marino (who also wrote part of the film), Kerri Kenney and Nicole Randall Johnson are the parents of the two kids and all do a nice job of adding to the mix. Perhaps the funniest adults to share the screen though are the ones invovled with Mintz-Plasse’s hobby/lifestyle of LAIRE (Live Action Interactive Roleplaying Explorers). Ken Jeong plays the King of the realm within the game and Joe Lo Trugglio is the leader of Mintz-Plasse’s faction.

Each of them dive headfirst into their characters, displaying just about every socially awkward trait kids have been beat up for by bullies since the dawn of time. The final “battle” in the game is a surreal mix of sadness on our part for these poor souls, trapped within a fictional reality to escape the actual one ,and sheer joy as they act like fools for our amusement.

Of course, like most comedies built on ridiculous plots, there are numerous holes in the story. If real world penalties and actions were applied, the large majority of “Role Models” would cease to exist. However, that’s what makes going to the movies fun, as we shed our disbeliefs and take a break from reality (though hopefully never to the point of engaging in live-action role playing). It really doesn’t come as any surprise that characters have significant changes of heart all within the span of a chipmunk’s heartbeat – and that’s okay, I doubt anyone was expecting more than a pleasant diversion here.

As such, it is worth a matinee on a rainy day or at least a look once it hits the DVD shelves and so I’m going to give “Role Models” a 3 out of 5. It would have been nice if Rudd had written himself a few more sarcastic asides and if Thompson could have smacked Stifler (dammit) another time or two but other than that, I was surprised by how funny the film ended up being, as the absurdity of the story kept growing and growing and my willingness to go along with it kept pace.

Random tangent: Has anyone else noticed that in interviews, Christopher Mintz-Plasse actually comes off geekier than his characters? Is that even possible? Just a thought bouncing around in my head I though I’d share. Move along now.