The gentlemen of Role Models sit and look disgruntled.
As Printed in The Lumberjack on Nov. 13, 2008
by Gary Sundt
Role Models is the kind of film people will seek to complain about. When a comedy succeeds on such a fundamental, inherently funny way, people want to shoot holes in its ship. And know that, despite its adherence to formula, Role Models works. It’s the funniest movie I’ve seen all year, and I saw 10,000 BC.
Consider one post I read on IMDb.com regarding Seann William Scott’s character. His name is Wheeler, and he is basically a loser in his late 20s who works as a mascot for the Minotaur Energy Drink company and gets laid more than occasionally. The angry poster, known as balboa82, utilized all the poor grammar in his arsenal to take issue with the positive portrayal of a good-looking guy who does not have his act together and still gets laid.
Balboa82 also probably took issue with the sheer snarkiness of Danny (Paul Rudd), Wheeler’s partner at the energy drink company. Danny hates his job; in fact, he hates his life. He has been selling this energy drink for 10 years now, and his dissatisfaction is causing him to lash out at the little annoyances he encounters on a daily basis. One such outburst, involving the insistence on the term “venti” for a large drink at Starbucks, causes his girlfriend of seven years, Beth (Elizabeth Banks), to break up with him. Bitter and drunk on energy drinks, he flies off the handle, and winds up driving the Minotaur truck into a statue of a horse. Now he and Wheeler are facing jail time.
Fortunately, Beth is an attorney, and works out a deal with the judge that will keep both men out of prison. They have to perform community service for Sturdy Wings, a group that partners up misguided kids with responsible adults in a Big Brothers Big Sisters type-way.
The imprudent and carefree Wheeler is partnered with Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson), a young black kid with a single mom, a distaste for authority and a love of “boobies.” The brutish and unenthused Danny is linked with Augie Farks (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a high school-aged white kid whose life revolves around a real-life medieval fantasy game, where he dresses up as a knight, fights for Zanthia (his fictional country), plots to kill the douchebag King Argotron (Ken Jeong) and pines for the affections of the hot, nerdy elf-looking girl Esplen (Alexandra Stamler).
Now, I am almost completely sure balboa82 would take issue with Ronnie, especially when he has dialogue like “Cause I’m black, you think I did it?” Is that even close to politically correct when taken out-of-context? Definitely not. It would no doubt take a quick study to know that, within the context of the scene, the dialogue is actually lampooning the stereotypes.
What individuals like balboa82 will have the least respect for is the sheer brilliance of the script, written by Rudd, Ken Marino, Timothy Dowling and director David Wain. Role Models has a lot of jokes, and I think when you put aside the need for political correctness, you will find a lot to laugh at.
The whole boys-to-men/coming of age formula isn’t a new thing at all, but the sharp intelligence of this script lifts the flick up to be better than it has to be. Also, as pointed out by Village Voice critic Robert Wilonsky, “you can never go wrong with a climactic, foam-padded sword fight set to Kiss.”
As a result, the actors are given the best the formula can offer them. Paul Rudd, the ever-melancholy king of deadpan comedy, runs the show, with Scott trailing not far behind. Mintz-Plasse continues his reign as the master of awkward, and I hope Thompson goes on to say more morally questionable things in films.
Banks, who has had a career year with phenomenal performances in W. and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, does a fine job stepping back into a role that requires her to do less, but in turn shows her range as an actress.
For my final thoughts on Role Models, I’d like to consider the fantasy world that Augie is involved in. Of the film’s good ideas, this might be its best. In playing on the mainstream popularity of role-playing games like World of Warcraft, the film comes off as more original and timely than the formula should allow it to be.
It is with that in mind that those who think like balboa82 can shove it. Role Models is (expletive) funny.