There are people who will no doubt not like Role Models, deeming it, as one of my school teachers used to call me, "rude, crude and socially unacceptable." Well, the truth of the matter is that I am rude, crude and socially unacceptable. I scoff at political correctness and the delicate sensibilities of others as my brow hangs defiantly low. And while all of that may lend itself to why I enjoyed Role Models so much, the real reason is, quite simply, that Role Models is a very funny movie.
Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott star as Danny and Wheeler to co-workers who, contrary to Danny's assertions, are actually friends. Both work for Minotaur, one of those disgusting energy drinks load with caffeine that taste terrible and turns your urine neon green. Danny delivers motivational speeches to school kids about saying no to drugs and instead chugging Minotaur, and while he's giving his spiel, Wheeler dances around in a ridiculous costume of the company's mascot. For Wheeler, an aging party animal that still enjoys meaningless one night stands, his job is great. But for Danny, a bitter, cynical man who's annoyed by everything and everyone, his job is a living hell. When Danny's girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks) breaks up with him and moves out, he snaps, and goes on a bit of a rampage that lands him and Wheeler in jail. Beth, being a lawyer, manages to cut a deal where Danny and Wheeler can avoid jail by performing 150 hours of community service. They are sent off to Sturdy Wings, an organization that pairs kids, known as "littles," with adult mentors, conversely known as "bigs."
It comes as no big surprise that Danny and Wheeler are paired up with two kids that can't seem to make it work with their bigs. Danny's little is Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a socially inept nerd who wears a cape and participates in live action role playing. Meanwhile, Wheeler is stuck with Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson), a foul-mouthed kid with a penchant for slapping people who has gone through eight different bigs in six weeks. But for Danny and Wheeler, there is no choice but for them to make it work with their littles, or they will go directly to jail. Things get off to a rocky start, and it is quickly apparent that in many ways Danny and Wheeler are more childish than the kids they mentor. Both have trouble taking their responsibilities seriously, but as they begin to have an impact on the lives of the kids, Danny and Wheeler also begin to see the world from a different perspective.
There are so many reasons why Role Models could have failed, but when all is said and done, it succeeds because it never pulls any punches. In an era of Judd Apatow-produced comedies that has reestablished unabashed R-rated humor for adults, Role Models delivers the sort of crass humor that is sure to offend some people. It may be especially shocking to people who mistake the film for something of a family comedy about two loveable guys mentoring two young rascals. This is a good-natured comedy steeped in raunchy humor and profane language. At the same time, it's not all boob jokes and sophomoric locker-room banter, because Role Models also delivers a certain sentimental feel good-ishness that keeps it from being comedic trash. With solid direction by David Wain, and a sharp, clever, well written script, Role Models is both laugh-out-loud funny and sentimental, without being overly syrupy.
The script and the direction work to make Role Models an entertaining comedy, but the cast bring it all to life. It is difficult to think of even a small bit player who doesn't give a good performance, as everyone in the film seems to bring a certain bit of magic to their role. Rudd and Scott have a great chemistry, and play well off of each other, but they also work in their pairings with Mintz-Plasse and Thompson, and all four work together as an ensemble as well. With the wrong actors cast as the kids, the film could have easily fallen apart. It would have been easy to present Augie and Ronnie as precociously cute children, or merely glorified props used to propel the story of Danny and Wheeler. But the kids, as well as their parents, are given a bit more depth that is often found in comedies, and all play an integral role in how the movie unfolds.
Initially, I was apprehensive about Role Models. For one thing, I was one of those people that absolutely despised director David Wain's Wet Hot American Summer, so much so that I was hesitant to watch this movie. But thankfully I got past that, and gave Role Models a chance, because it is frankly one of the more funny films I've seen in quite some time. As much as I've enjoyed movies like Superbad, Pineapple Express and 40 Year Old Virgin--and make no mistake: I have enjoyed those films--I actually enjoyed Role Models a bit more. Like all of those other films, it isn't perfect, and it isn't for everyone, but anyone that is not easily offended and enjoys a solid, rock-out-with-your-cock-out comedy will be thoroughly entertained by Role Models.
Role Models is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The clarity of the picture and the image quality is good, and the transfer is clean, with no visible artifacts or defects. The disc contains both the theatrical version and an unrated version, and at one point it looked to me like the theatrical version had a slightly darker picture, but it only seemed that way during the first few scenes (and quite honestly, might have been my imagination).
Role Models is presented English in 5.1 Dolby Digital, with dubbed language track in Spanish and French, as well as optional subtitles in English, Spanish and French. The sound quality is good, with a great audio mix and consistent levels.
There are two versions of Role Models on this single disc release--the theatrical versions and a slightly longer unrated cut. There is only a three minute difference between the two versions, which amounts to nothing of major significance (really, it's just a ploy to make you feel like your getting more for your money). There are a total of 19 deleted scenes and alternate takes (24 min.), some of which are especially funny. There is a brief featurette about the creation of the live action role playing game shown in the movie (9 min.), a blooper reel (4 min.), three "interviews" with supporting characters that are improvised by the actors (8 min.), and a making of short (7 min.), all of which are fun, if not a bit pedestrian. Director and co-writer David Wain provides a good audio commentary that is both informative, and at times amusing. Wain veers off on enough tangents that the commentary thankfully is not a by the numbers this-is-how-we-made-the-movie commentary, while at the same time not being annoyingly self indulgent.
Role Models is a solid comedy that is carried by not just consistent laughs, but a good story and a cast that works incredibly well together. You may not feel the need to own it, but it certainly holds up to repeated viewings.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]