Recently, I thought I was beginning to lose faith in the comedy genre. Over the past year, the genre was completely revived. However, in the last few months we got the disaster that was “Sex Drive” and a totally unjust Apatow/Rogen backlash forming. My love of comedy was restored last night with “Role Models”.
“Role Models” succeeds because it follows a completely original idea. It only falls into cliche territory a few times, but it mainly stays on course for an inventive and inspired ending.
“Role Models” gives the audience the usual pair of slackers. Danny (Paul Rudd) is a spokesman for a Red Bullesque energy drink company. Like Peter in “Office Space” he lives a pretty miserable existence which gets worse when he realizes that he’s gone nowhere in life. His business partner Wheeler (Sean William Scott) doesn’t seem to realize this and just enjoys prancing around in his bull costume.
After Danny starts to loose it, he tries to propose to his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) and does some other pretty unlawful acts that land him and Wheeler in community service. To fulfill their hours, they’re put into a child mentor program. Danny is assigned Augie (Christopher “McLovin” Mintz-Plasse), a Dungeons and Dragons/WoW geek, while wheeler is assigned to the foul-mouth Ronnie (Bobbe J. Thompson). Mischief, chaos, and a lot of heart ensue.
“Role Models” is directed by David Wain. Some may know him better as David of TV’s brilliant comedy “Stella”, also a comedy trio consisting of Wain, Michael Ian Black, and Michael Showalter. Wain shows as much charisma and hilarity behind the camera as he did in front of it. “Role Models” contains that random, over-the-top, slapstick humor with a heart that made “Stella” so great. Wain makes a too short cameo as the typical man on a camping trip who tries to play the acoustic guitar.
There are three things that make a great comedy work: writing, directing, and acting. If you have all three, you’re set. The performances in the movie make Wain’s script and directing even funnier. Rudd has proved that he has what it takes to be a leading man. He has a gift for making dramatic seem funny. He played mopey and depressed flawlessly in “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and brings it to a new level here. Scott shows a comic talent I never thought he had. He could probably make a great career if he sticks to good material like “Role Models” and stays away from any “American Pie” sequels. Mintz-Plasse pulls another fantastic performance here. It is almost identical to his McLovin performance, but two McLovins is barely enough. He brings that extreme awkwardness including stutters and long pauses to make the audience uncomfortable, but he controls it so Augie isn’t totally resentable or laughable. Thompson is a new face to look out for.
“Role Models” works better than recent comedies like “Sex Drive” because even its dirtiest jokes don’t feel too gross or raunchy. The best dirty jokes are subtle or hidden in innuendos (the best one: “I am here to service these young boys!”). If “Arrested Development” taught us anything about humor, it’s that you can never have enough innuendos.
What also sets “Role Models” apart is that the whole time you feel like you’re rooting for the underdog. Not to mention, even if the characters do awful things, we continue to feel for them. The connections that Wheeler and Danny find in the kids they are forced to mentor is something even deeper than you’d expect in an R rated comedy with Sean William Scott.
So if you’re in the mood to hear a debate about Kiss lyrics, and see and ending that will make you remember “Freaks and Geeks”, go see “Role Models”, one of the funniest movies this year.
Recommended for Fans of: “Superbad”, “Knocked Up”, “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, “Office Space”, “Clerks”, “Freaks and Geeks” (TV), “Arrested Development” (TV), “Stella” (TV)