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Teaching Lifeís Lessons
by Martin Malloy on Nov 07, 2008
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
On the surface Role Models appears as just another glossy, Hollywood comedy, devoid of any real depth or, honestly, any comedy. Fortunately, that couldnít be farther from the truth. It may be more comforting to know that the film is helmed by David Wain who previously directed the now cult classic Wet Hot American Summer along with being a current member of comedy troupe Stella.
Of course, these projects are derivative of the long defunct, but also cult favorite comedy group The State. While Role Models is truly Wainís first project that is not a State collaboration, you can bet that he still finds a few parts for his friends. Among them is lead Paul Rudd who appeared as Andy the camp ďstudĒ in Wet Hot American Summer but who now plays Danny, a dejected and depressed 30-something year old man who has all but given up on life.
After a rough day in which his girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks) dumps him, following a marriage proposal, Danny loses it during work. Oh yeah, Danny works as a spokesman for the energy drink Minotaur, and he goes from school to school telling kids to say no to drugs but yes to Minotaur. His sidekick is Wheeler (Seann William Scott) who dresses up as the Minotaur. Wheelerís the quintessential ďparty guy", constantly having one night stands and who is always having loving life.
When Danny has his breakdown he causes a car wreck and they are both arrested. Fortunately Beth is a lawyer and manages to get them out of jail, but they have to perform community service at the judgeís favorite charity -- a Big Brother program. The organization is run by the slightly unbalanced ex-drug addict Gayle (the always hilarious Jane Lynch) who decides to assign Danny and Wheeler to the two toughest kids. Wheeler is paired with Ronnie (Bobbíe J. Thompson) who is nearly impossible to handle and Danny with Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), an older boy who is obsessed with dungeons, dragons and role playing.
From here the film really does take some surprising twists and turns. Many people forget that Paul Rudd has been around long before The 40-YearOld Virgin and is quite capable of carrying a film, not to mention that heís a great, versatile actor. The same goes for Seann William Scott is also has impeccable timing as a comedian. The two donít carry the film alone, though. Both Mintz-Plasse and Thompson are excellent in their respective roles and compliment their older counterparts perfectly. But the true brilliance is from the script. Written by Wain, Rudd, Timothy Dowling and another ex-The State member, Ken Marino (who also plays Augieís stepfather), itís hard to imagine that four people can write such a coherent and witty script.
It may seem that because it involves kids, the film may be on the tame side, but actually itís quite crude with Thompson swearing just as much, if not more so, than any other adult actor. But the crudeness isnít overdone and the balance is perfect. Itís easy to say the duality of sentimentalism and raw comedy is thanks to recent superstar Judd Apatow, but Wain has been doing comedy just as long as Apatow and he is indebted to one but himself.
Iím worried that Role Models wonít attract the audience it deserves, however. Unlike a Kevin Smith film or a Judd Apatow flick, David Wain, unfortunately, isnít a household name. And even though Paul Rudd and Seann William Scot are well known, they arenít Seth Rogen or Steve Carell. Still, Wain has created a classic comedy and I hope that Role Models bests his previous efforts and actually gains the attention it deserves upon its release. Right now is an amazing time for comedy and David Wain is one of the greats. It would be nice if Hollywood finally understood that.
by Martin Malloy on Nov 07, 2008