Film Review: Role Models
Writer-director David Wain jumps effectively into the movie mainstream with "Role Models," a comedy that retains a bit of the sensibility and many cast members familiar from his previous films but should have no problem connecting with a wider audience. Commercial prospects are solid, and while the premise and marketing may put off some cult followers of "The State," the picture isn't so homogenized it will leave them feeling betrayed.
Which isn't to say it's not completely formulaic: It's a self-improvement comedy that hits every beat on time. Two losers who hawk energy drinks to school children (Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott) are forced to do community service after destroying public property with their monster truck. Assigned to serve as Big Brother-types to kids nobody else can stand (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who lives in a Dungeons & Dragons fantasy, and the foul-mouthed Bobb'e J. Thompson), they fumble badly (with Rudd, of course, losing girlfriend Elizabeth Banks early on) before deciding to accept some responsibility and mount an entertaining run at redemption.
Rudd and Scott hail from different universes of movie comedy, but manage together here just fine, particularly since each takes a different path -- with Scott happily becoming Thompson's Jedi master of lechery, while Rudd drags his feet befriending his own misfit charge. (Mintz-Plasse gets another ride out of his "Superbad" persona, endearing in his devotion to a hopelessly dorky hobby but more self-aware and less manic than Fogell was.) Rudd's weary misanthropy serves him as well as ever, though one wonders if the actor (who co-wrote the screenplay) isn't enjoying it as much as he appeared to in earlier outings like "Knocked Up."
The comic spotlight isn't passed around as much as in Wain's earlier features, although supporting players earn their keep. Banks' role is too straight to allow her to get any laughs, but Jane Lynch (as a reformed druggie in charge of the kids) plays up some repeated jokes to good effect. The real scene-stealer is the rock band KISS: They don't appear in the film, but a couple of the biggest laughs rely on them.