I’m always a bit of a sucker when it comes to naughty comedy that appeals to those with tastes running to juvenile humor. Oh, say “Porky’s” (click here for my review) or “American Pie” (click here for my look at the franchise). “Role Models” is no exception other than to report that it is better than you might think, but is also comes off a profane in front of and from its youngest actors. It could have been more family-friendly with a touch of editing, but then the edge it has would have been lost. Oh, I did watch the unrated version (not the theatrical release). That might make a difference. Probably not. Did they ever have an unrated cut of “Porky’s?”
(2008; 99 minutes; rated R; directed by David Wain and starring Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Elizabeth Banks and Jane Lynch)
THEY’RE ROUGH AROUND THE EDGES, BUT THEY’RE OK
(NOTE: I expanded this review with some additional opinion and updating of links on July 17, 2016.)
I believe Paul Rudd is one of the best comedy actors working today and over the past decade he’s put some powerful bling on his resume: “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (click here for my review), “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and its sequel and also “Knocked Up.” So, today I’m going to the near past for his lesser known, but equally good effort in “Role Models” with Seann William Scott.
Rudd knows how to project one kind of character: the gloomy, despondent guy who’s depressed about his life. Rudd has done it very well in “Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” but he’s particularly good at it in “Role Models.” Pairing him here with Scott was inspired and the duo’s work turns out well here.
In “Role Models,” Rudd plays “Danny Donahue” and Scott plays “Anson Wheeler.” They’re co-workers for an energy drink company who couldn’t be any more different. Rudd is gloomy and down about how his life’s going after 10 years with the company. On the other hand, Scott is upbeat and only wants one thing out of life: hitting on girls. Rudd has a meltdown at a high school presentation and the pair land in court where they’re ordered to do community service in a Big Brother-like organization called “Sturdy Wings.”
You just know neither one is going to be up to the task, but it’s community service or jail and we’re off and running. Rudd gets a shy, late-teen kid who is into the medieval make-believe world while Scott gets the stereotype here: the boy is a caustic, profanity spewing pre-teen that no other “Big” has connected with.
Of course everyone connects; the connection falls apart just after the middle of the film; and then everyone gets back together for a wonderful ending where everyone is satisfied.
OK, this could have been one where the actors mail it in and rely on the crude jokes and cursing to carry the day. They don’t. They elevate the film to better-than-average status with hard work and talent. Here’s a look at their work:
- Rudd does his usual best as the despondent 35-year-old who promotes energy drinks (cue crude humor here at several levels). Rudd’s character doesn’t see any reason to get energized about anything and would actually like to spend time in jail rather than do community service. Rudd sells his character well and the transformation is at the correct pace: he doesn’t push it too quickly or at the end be so saccharine as to make you want to gag. He has also been in “This is 40,” “Our Idiot Brother” and “Dinner for Schmucks.”
- Scott continues to ride his “American Pie” character type more than a decade later (he was “Stifler,” remember?). Scott is solid as the devil-may-care bad boy who impresses his young charge with talk about … well, adult things. You wouldn’t call Scott out for not giving it his all here, but it’s not his best either. He was also in “The Dukes of Hazzard” with Johnny Knoxville (click here for my review) as well as “ Woodcock” (click here for my review), “Road Trip” (click here for my review), “Old School” and “Bulletproof Monk.”
- Golden Globe winner (not for this one) Jane Lynch as “Gayle Sweeny” will put you on the floor with her very blue comments about how she knows the judge in Rudd’s and Scott’s case; or what she was before founding “Sturdy Wings;” or in just about any scene. Lynch is her usual breezy self here and pulls it off with such ease and conviction you can actually believe she works with a charity to help youngsters. Lynch is most recognized from her role on TV’s “Glee” (that’s where she got a Golden Globe and one nomination) and has also had parts on TV’s “Two and a Half Men” (prior to that franchise being destroyed by the talentless Aston Kutcher) and she’s also a veteran of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”
The two kids placed with Rudd and Scott do excellent jobs. Both have their age group characterizations down pat and they appear comfortable on screen. They are:
- Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays “Augie Farques,” who is the Middle Earth-obsessed teen who’s afraid of girls and has few friends. He does an excellent job here as the shy dork who wants to break out of his shell but doesn’t know how to do it. Mintz-Plasse was 19 at the time of the film and plays a bit younger role. He has also been in “Superbad,” the remake of “Fright Night” and “Year One.” “Role Models” is his second film after “Superbad.”
- Bobb’e J. Thompson plays the foul-mouthed “Ronnie Shields.” Thompson kicks off his profane lines with such style that you know he’s a born entertainer. Thompson was 12 at the time of the film and plays a similar age boy, but with a very adult vocabulary and plain-speaking about women’s anatomy. Thompson has also been in “Snowmen” and a number of TV roles in an early career already racking up 43 credits by age 18 (what he was on the original date).
Also in the supporting cast mix:
- Elizabeth Banks plays “Beth Jones,” who is the woman who shoots Rudd’s proposal of marriage down and sparks his meltdown and further plunge into depression. Banks is also the guys’ attorney trying to keep them out of jail and she is competent in this small role. There’s little room for her to break out here. Banks has also been in “The Hunger Games” and “The Next Three Days.”
- As the love interest for Mintz-Plasse, Alexandra “Allie” Stamler plays “Sarah/Queen Esplen.” Stamler does a smooth job here and is especially effective playing coy with Mintz-Plasse because she, like him, has a terminal case of shyness. Stamler has been in only one other role to date – a part on an episode of TV’s “Royal Pains.”
The only other supporting actor worth mentioning is Ken Jeong, who has specialized in creepy roles from “The Hangover” (he’s especially creepy in the third installment – click here to read my look at the franchise) to “Role Models.” Jeong is “King Argotron” and is the nemesis of Mintz-Plasse. He does a great job as the ultra-creepy guy who gets far too into the medieval world (he even demands that Rudd kiss his ring at one point). Jeong is so good you almost want to call the authorities on him just on general principles. He has also been in “Pain & Gain,” “Pineapple Express” and was also in “Knocked Up.”
I’ll say for this one what I’ve said before: It’s difficult to believe a film as funny as “Role Models” didn’t do better at the box office. It came in 47th at the U.S. box office for 2008 with $67.2 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Worldwide, the film would bring in $92.5 million on a $28 million budget, according to Wiki. The No. 1 film was “The Dark Knight,” which brought in $533.3 million. Other films from that year that I’ve reviewed are:
- “21” (solid) – click here for my review
- “Recount” (outstanding) – click here for my review
- “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay”
(hilarious) – click here for my review
Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):
- Sorry, but for this one I can only quote IMDb.com on the notes: “The logo for Sturdy Wings is virtually identical to the image on the cover of ‘Wingspan: Hits and History’ by Paul McCartney‘s band, Wings.”
- Directly from IMDb.com: “Before Danny proposes, Wheeler tells him that they have to be at Blue Valley Middle School. Blue Valley is the name of the actual middle school that Paul Rudd attended in Overland Park, Kansas.”
- Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “This movie also has the two main characters tell each other to refer to themselves as Dragon and Nighthawk. Will Ferrell and John C Riley also did this in the 2008 film Step Brothers.”
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