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Role Models

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on February 27, 2010

ROLE MODELS (2008)

Yes, I am reviewing a silly comedy. This means I will also be reviewing The Hangover and I Love You, Man in the near future. In today’s world of Judd Apatow comedies, there’s something to be said for the comedies people group in with Apatow’s films but are not actually his… and are also probably funnier. I’m a bit biased about Role Models simply because it’s a movie directed by David Wain of MTV’s The State (an amazingly brilliant ’90s sketch comedy show that was big on random humour). Wain peppers former State members throughout his films (see one of my favourites, Wet Hot American Summer) and so every film he does makes me happy even if I don’t love the actual film (probably shouldn’t see The Ten– it’s OK at best). However, Role Models is actually quite hilarious and full of wonderful performances that includes a lot of improv from the cast.

The basic plot of this film is that two guys, Danny (Paul Rudd, my one true love) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott of American Pie infamy) are forced to do community service when they smash the company Minotaur vehicle (Minotaur is an energy drink they pimp out to schools) into a statue on school property. Community service is the alternative to 30 days in jail, so they are compelled to actually stick with the service and have a consequence if they do not oblige. The program they are assigned to by the judge is called ‘Sturdy Wings’, a big-brother type organization that is run by the no-bullshit-taking Gayle (played by the ALWAYS brilliant Jane Lynch, who can be seen on Glee and in many Christopher Guest films such as Best In Show. She is also the boss in 40 Year-Old Virgin). Danny is in a rut in life and he is assigned to Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, better known as McLovin a la Superbad), who is very much into LARPing. Wheeler is assigned to Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson), who is the youngest kid in the program and also the most unruly. Danny and Wheeler start off not knowing how to relate to their “littles”, but clearly things progress as time goes by.

In a lot of ways, it’s pretty cute how the relationships change in the film. The storyline is pretty basic but the different ways the pairs work off each other makes the situations they are in much more compelling. Danny and Wheeler clearly don’t want to be in this program and are in it just to stay out of jail, but they both gain a lot from the experience. And there’s a happy ending, naturally. Now let’s get beyond the sappy stuff and onto the humour.

I am not going to lie– LARP is an easy target for a reason: It’s hilarious to watch. (P.S.- LARP is Live Action Role Play. Think something like Dungeons and Dragons with battles in the park being held with foam swords. Google it :P.) I am sure it’s plenty of fun, too, but for those who are unfamiliar with it, it’s just bizarre. What I love in this film, however, is that while they poke fun at LARP they also embrace it and portray it in a way that I think is endearing. The LARP scenes also include some of the best comedic performances in the film, thanks to The State alum and Wet Hot American Summer cast member Joe Lo Truglio (playing Kuzzik, the leader of Augie’s nation in LAIRE, the LARP group)  and Community’s Ken Jeong (King Argotron, ruler of the realm of LAIRE). Lo Truglio’s improvised LAIRE lines, complete with the medieval-esque speech patterns and affectation in his voice, are truly hysterical–he had me in tears at times. Ken Jeong plays a character type that is quite typical for him–a crazy little egomaniac who is drunk on ‘power’–but is still awesomely funny, as per usual. Throw in Paul Rudd, who has proven himself as a strong comedic player ever since his ridiculous performance in Wet Hot American Summer, and you have magical scenes of absolute hilarity.

I am never a huge fan of Seann William Scott’s, but I think he served his character well. He still had the obnoxious frat boy attitude about him, but he was earnest and somewhat childlike. Wheeler’s relationship with Danny shows him at perhaps his most vulnerable, professing that they are best friends when it is clear that Danny really doesn’t care for him. But Wheeler is a guy who likes to have a good time all the time, and is convinced that the way to address problematic situations is to put on your “game face, bro.” His upbeat and often idiotic demeanor is often a perfect antithesis to sardonic, cynical, depressed Danny. However, they sometimes work off each other when addressing a third party, and the matching tenor of their humour makes perfect sense. It’s a funny dynamic, and I think it’s crucial to the film’s structure. As for the kids, Mintz-Plasse is appropriately dorky and innocent as the awkward LARPer, and little Bobb’e Thompson is hilariously jarring as the shockingly fowl-mouthed, breast-obsessed youngster Ronnie. Both gave solid performances, and were good choices for the roles. I should also mention that Elizabeth Banks, who plays Beth, Danny’s girlfriend, has been steadily growing on me. She gave a great performance in W., she’s actually pretty good in comedy, and she can play the “straight man” fairly well when she’s not being goofy. She used to annoy me, but I’m starting to grow fond of her.

The writing in the film is great, even though a lot of the funniest lines are improvised. This was written by David Wain, Paul Rudd, Ken Marino (also a State member, a Wet Hot American Summer cast member, and Augie’s stepfather in this film–Augie’s mother is played by Keri Kenney who was also in The State and was in Reno 911), and Timothy Dowling (Dowling co-created the story with William Blake Herron). I don’t know much about Dowling, but Wain + Rudd + Marino = good times, in my book. I know I can Wain and Marino to be at least decently amusing, considering how much I love The State and Wet Hot American Summer, and I have seen interviews with Paul Rudd–he is just hilarious in general. David Wain is also a good comedic director, which is actually pretty important in making good comedies.

At this point I want to do a bit of a breakdown of cast members for you. I’ve been trying to pepper in the connections between all these cast members, not only to each other but to other well-established comedies, and it’s just too much to do in paragraph form. So I’m going to do a quick run-down of some notable people (many whom I have already mentioned) and works that I think are relevant or might help you place them. I’ll probably do this for The Hangover and I Love You, Man, as well– you’ll be amazed at how many of these people are connected through members of The State in various works.

Paul Rudd: Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten, The 40 Year Old Virgin, I Love You, Man.

Joe Lo Truglio: The State, Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten, Superbad I Love You, Man

Ken Marion: The State, Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten

Kerri Kenney: The State, Wet Hot American Summer (technically her scene with director David Wain landed on the cutting room floor but it’s on the DVD), The Ten, Reno 911

A.D. Miles (he plays a kinda creepy frequent “big” in the Sturdy Wings program, and is also hilarious): Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten

David Wain: The State, Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten, Stella (TV), I Love You, Man (bit part)

Ken Jeong: The Hangover, Step Brothers, Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, Community (TV)

Elizabeth Banks: Wet Hot American Summer (where she was also involved with Paul Rudd’s character, which is referenced in the blooper reel on this film), The 40 Year Old Virgin, Zak and Miri Make a Porno (it’s on my list). She’s also in The Baxter, which I haven’t been listing because I have yet to see it, but it’s another film by folks from The State that also includes a number of people I have already listed.

Jane Lynch: Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Glee (TV)

Matt Walsh (one of the King’s lackeys in this film, who is also quite funny): Best known probably for his work in the Upright Citizens Brigade, along with Amy Poehler before her SNL days. He also had a bit part in I Love You, Man, and was the doctor in The Hangover.

BONUS: If you watch Wet Hot American Summer, Guitar Dude (who doesn’t have a real name, if I recall correctly) is Ladislas of Leisure in Role Models, who basically just plays the mandolin. It’s pretty awesome.

Do I recommend this film? God, yes. I have seen this film at least ten times in the past few months and I now own it on DVD. Every time I watch it, I laugh. However, I will issue the following warning: there is some raunchiness involved, so if you can only handle a certain amount of that I’d suggest the rated version to be safe. If you absolutely cannot handle raunchy… you might have a difficult time in the genre of comedy, overall. I will say that this isn’t raunchy just for the sake of it– it’s actually rather funny and not just one disgusting thing after another like American Pie or Scary Movie. I’d even say that it’s less raunchy than most Judd Apatow films, and probably much more clever. It really doesn’t belong in that general grouping, but, as I said before, these movies are automatically grouped together. I think it’s because of the overlap with some writers/actors, the subgenre of the “plain guy comedy”, and the somewhat similar type of humour utilized. Mind you, having “somewhat similar” humour doesn’t make them equals– Role Models employs more of the random, ridiculous, silly-yet-clever comedy that was found throughout The State. I think that those who do not like Judd Apatow films should still give this one a chance. If you don’t believe me, try Wet Hot American Summer, first. Then maybe you’ll be more willing to give Role Models a go. And for those of you who don’t really care about Apatow and are just looking for a good comedy, I think you’ll be pleased with this.

Also, I just realized one of the funniest and most brilliant jokes within this film (it deals with music, so it’s a bit more subtle). For anyone who knows the movie, take a listen. (Here’s a hint: it’s not actually what it sounds like.)

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7 Responses to “Role Models”

  1. Fosjam said

    I have to agree with you here, it is a hilarious film.

  2. Cantankerous Panda said

    Jesus, that was a fast reply! Methinks someone skimmed over it :P. Ah well, thanks for the reply and the support, anyway :D.

  3. Fyorl said

    You see, the ‘gun’ is his dick!

  4. Serryl said

    I’m actually surprised to see you recommending this one. It might seem a bit stupid to point out, but I enjoy comedies when the writing is funny. So many of these goofy/raunchy type movies just fall flat for me, so I avoid them or let someone else see them first. This is where you come in!

    I’ll probably give this one a glance at some point. Thanks for the review

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      I really hope it’s not too much for you. I don’t enjoy the American Pie movies OR the Scary Movie films largely because they go for the lowest-common-denominator in their humour, which often results in an endless string of overly-raunchy gags (pun wasn’t intended but I like it). But I liked The 40 Year Old Virgin and The Hangover a lot, and both had a decent amount of raunch to them. It’s just that it was cleverly used for the most part (and seemed to serve SOME sort of purpose overall, even if it was just to overtly illustrate the state of the character, such as being too drunk), so I don’t consider them on the same level as the stupid raunchy films.

      Again, to be safe, you should probably go with the rated version. I think you’ll enjoy the LARP sequences a bunch, though. They really are awesome.

  5. […] who is stealing Kick-Ass’s headlines, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse from Superbad and Role Models). Does anyone look at Mintz-Plasse and NOT think "total […]

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