"Role Models" is not a product that needs much effort to be funny. Not only does the comedy troupe "The State" more or less reunite here, but there's Paul Rudd, the world of LARP, and McLovin' also stealing screentime. Coming dangerously close to self-parody at times, "Role Models" remains a light but heartily funny diversion, best served with a raucous audience who appreciate a masterful KISS joke when they see one.
As a spokesman for a rancid energy drink, Danny (Paul Rudd) is feeling defeated by life. Recently dumped by his longtime girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) and faced with the one-dimensional yammering of partner Wheeler (Seann William Scott), Danny lashes out violently, leaving the two men with an option: jail time or act as big brothers to a child in need. Reluctantly opting for the latter, Danny and Wheeler are teamed up with two special people: foul-mouthed kid Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson) and teenaged sword and sorcery role-playing fanatic Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, "Superbad"). Forced into the mentoring game, Danny and Wheeler initially reject the companionship, but as the weeks pass and the challenges mount, the men grow to like their charges, soon investing fully in their lives.
It's refreshing to witness director David Wain ("Wet Hot American Summer") endeavor to make a silly comedy with oddball touches. "Role Models" is a fairly straightforward bit of humor, sweeping up bits of Peter Pan syndrome, raunchy one-liners, and acidic irony to supplement the formulaic screenplay (credited to four people, including Rudd). "Models" isn't surprising, but it's filled with substantial pockets of laughter, most emerging from Wain's sense of playfulness and desire to reach for an alternating routine of the broad and the obscure in the humor department.
A majority of "Models" is simply predicated on the reactions of Rudd and Scott as they stumble into the headspace of their troubled kids. Both actors are terrific fun in their roles, playing up the discomfort with generous timing, especially Rudd, who's handed a gem in Augie: a knight in a live-action, role-playing dynasty that opens the film up to numerous depictions of nerdly enthusiasm and overdramatic adults playing make believe. Wain actually reserves plenty of screentime for the LARP (identified as LAIRE in the film) sequences, including a sublime ending where all the frustrations of our characters are sorted out on the battlefield of absurdity.
Cast well (Jane Lynch kills as the big brother program honcho) and infused with enough sardonic pluck to pick up steam after a lukewarm opening act, "Role Models" hits a rough patch during the midsection, where Wain succumbs to screenwriting 101 templates to push his film to the finish line. This movie isn't going to touch any hearts, so it baffles me why Wain would even try his hand at sentimentality as Wheeler and Danny are separated from the boys due to ineffective supervision. It's a wet blanket on the film the very moment it starts to hum pleasingly. The intent is to create an underdog situation for the picture, but it succeeds more in killing the laughs.
Included on this DVD are both the R-rated Theatrical Cut of "Role Models" and its predictable, publicity minded counterpart, the dreaded "Unrated Cut." Adding just under three minutes of footage to the already substantial running time, the Unrated Cut introduces only a few random new jokes and character embellishments to the mix. It's nothing to get worked up over. Stick with the Theatrical Cut.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), the image quality on "Role Models" runs fairly hot, with skintones extremely pink and somewhat counterproductive to the comedy. The rest of the viewing experience retains a proper amount of detail, emerging carefully from the soft cinematography.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix only seems to lurch forward when soundtrack cuts are introduced or during the LARP sequences, where sword clangs and assorted conquests make for interesting atmosphere. The rest of the mix keeps to the basics, with a proper separation of dialogue and the soundtrack. Spanish and French 5.1 tracks are also included.
English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are available.
A feature-length audio commentary (on the theatrical cut only) with director David Wain alternates between the expected BTS information and the filmmaker's little patches of comedy to keep the listener on their toes. Wain provides quite a captivating listen, describing how "Role Models" was assembled with the help of many writers and multiple shoots. Pointing out the stitches of the movie, it's amazing to see how smoothly Wain and the crew were able to blend all the fragments and ideas together. When Wain slips into a shtick coma, the track becomes a chore, but thankfully he only slips on some audio absurdity for a few moments.
"Deleted and Alternate Scenes" (24:20) flesh out sequences featured heavily in early advertising for the film, and restores comedian Louis CK's cameo role. Essentially comprised of superfluous character development and extended improv stingers, the collection supplies huge laughs.
"Bloopers" (3:52) is a standard batch of mix-em-ups, made comedy gold by the giggly cast and crew.
"On the Set of 'Role Models'" (7:42) starts off more as a celebration of the film's F-word content than the expected programmed cast and crew platitudes. Strange. When the featurette settles into a familiar BTS routine, the excitement noticeably dies down.
"Game On: Recreating a Role Playing World" (9:46) examines the challenges faced by the production when it came time to train for and film the LARP sequences. Interviews are fun, but the real jewel here is an opportunity to watch Seann William Scott suffer from very real testicle trauma caused by the foam sword of Paul Rudd.
"In Character & Off-Script" (8:07) offer actors Joe Lo Truglio, A.D. Miles, and Matt Walsh a chance to riff in character within the interview format. It's great to see how far these talented men can take the joke, but the collection is rarely funny.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
With numerous KISS references (Wheeler and Ronnie's bonding point), ludicrously potty-mouthed children, and the cast giving the material a nice bite when it needs it the most, "Role Models" turns out to be a film of select bellylaughs and constant smiles. It's not quite a barnstormer, but it has a wealth of small charms, and Wain works them all over with his special brand of absurdity.
For further online adventure, please visit brianorndorf.com