Role Models Review

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Just dumped by his girlfriend (Banks), salesman Danny (Rudd), with his colleague Wheeler (Scott), trashes his work truck. The pair face a choice: jail, or community service mentoring two kids (Mintz-Plasse and Thompson).


On paper, Role Models has averageness written all over it, a by-the-numbers R-rated comedy that sees two American slackers have fun and frolics in the first half, before learning important life lessons in the second. And while David Wain’s comedy adheres strictly to this blueprint, it transcends its high concept through strong performances, filthy-smart patter, a winning affection for all its core characters and ability to hit its emotional targets without descending into slush.

After a funny but functional opening act in which we establish the essentials — Paul Rudd’s Danny is morose and dumped, Seann William Scott’s Wheeler is psyched and horny — the film really gets into gear when the boys are lumbered with two kids in the Sturdy Wings mentoring programme. Although Wheeler intro-ing Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson), a pint-sized Chris Rock, to his world of rock ’n’ raunch is consistently funny, the movie is at its best skewering Augie’s (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) world of medieval RPGs, clashing Danny’s misanthropy with cardboard swords, nerdy kids and men with mile-long beards and Shakespearean speech patterns.

Of course, the two slackers will become attached to their charges, let them down, then Grow Up in the process, but where Role Models really scores is in its ability to rejuvenate formula. Strong supporting turns from Jane Lynch as an ex-coke-fiend turned Sturdy Wings group leader and Ken Jeong as the pompous but fey king of the RPG universe add a different flavour. Tellingly, Wain injects a loose, shaggy-dog feel from both grown-ups and kids that lifts it out of the pack. To wit... Ronnie: “Suck it, Reindeer Games!” Danny: “I’m not Ben Affleck.” Ronnie: “You white. You Ben Affleck.”

Rudd (why is he not a bigger star?) injects maximum venom into a wide variety of put-downs, whereas Scott, in his best turn since the god-like Stifler, defuses Wheeler’s sleazebag tendencies through appealing sweetness. But, most happily, Mintz-Plasse finds different colours to the dork persona he started with Superbad — Augie is not as funny as McLovin, but Mintz-Plasse gives him so much likability and conviction, you will root for him come his final battle.

A great example of the Emotionally Stunted Men Grow A Heart sub-genre. Role Models staves off the January blues and puts a marker down as 2009’s laugh-out-loud comedy to beat.