Role Models

by Ian T. McFarland on November 7, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Role Models
  • IMDB: link

David Wain, an alum of basic cable sketch comedies The State and Stella, has always understood the clichéd studio picture.  His latest two pictures, Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten, have more closely resembled parodies of the trite mainstream lightweight drama than they have functioned as their own picture.  So then what, we may ask, is Wain doing directing a big-budget comedy from Universal Pictures?  The notion almost seems hypocritical; but luckily Wain proves that his comedy chops isn’t restricted to Indie material.

In Role Models, friendly co-workers Danny (Paul Rudd) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott) are forced into a month of community service after a traffic accident left their monster truck perched atop a High School mascot’s statue.  The judge decides the two’s service will be for Sturdy Wings, a sort of Big Brothers Big Sisters service that links adults to kids with adult role models.

Things don’t go as well as planned, as it turns out that Wheeler talks about nothing but the greatness of KISS’ music and, of course, boobs.  Danny, on the other hand, is as pessimistic and pissed off as the entire cast of Glengarry Glen Ross.  It only gets worse when they meet their assigned kids – Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, or known better as McLovin’) is a dork that doesn’t know how to connect to anyone else, and Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson) is a pint-size hellian hellbent on sending his buddy Wheeler to jail.

The story is as flat as you would expect a non-Judd Apatow studio laugher to be, and the acting is disappointing.  Paul Rudd especially, who is normally a highlight in any of his movies, comes off as totally unmotivated in the film.  Despite sharing writing credit on the script, he still can’t find a way to be either funny or affecting in the lead role.

But Wain is a veteran of directing comedy, and surprisingly enough, Role Models is his strongest work to date.  His previous work has been too invested in the individual jokes, and cleverly playing with the clichés of the traditional Hollywood story.  Entertaining by all means, but nothing that convincingly fits into the coherent whole of a story.  But even though the story is one of the weakest in recent comedies, Wain’s adherence to it allows him to string the audience along with more success than he’s experienced before throughout the entire film.  With some thanks to this, it ends up feeling much shorter than its hour and fifty minute running time would suggest.

The laughs, if forgettable, are strong and deliver nonetheless.  The jokes just about always hit the target; although I must confess – writing this review five days after seeing the film, I’m having a difficult time recalling any of the actual lines.

In the end, Role Models might be a light weight in a lot of respects, but it’s certainly entertaining enough to justify spending time with.  It just might not be worth looking up to.

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