Role Models is the best comedy movie I have seen all year. Wait, let me rescind that statement for a more accurate description. It is the most hilarious, yet poignantly touching movie that I have had the pleasure of viewing in quite a while. Each of the principle actors hit all the right notes for a continuous sequence of perfect comedic timing that had both me and the audience laughing nearly the entire time, so much so that we probably missed a third of the jokes in the film.
Every element of the film Role Models works to place it several notches above any other comedy movie released in the last year. It was funnier than Tropic Thunder, more enjoyable than Pineapple Express and more laugh-out-loud honest than Zack and Miri Make a Porno. With this in mind, it’s a wonder why this movie has not received a stronger push in the advertising arena (aside from some promotion on Comedy Central).
The plot of Role Models follows Danny (Paul Rudd, his best role yet) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott, playing “Stiffler” again, but he does it well) as the advertising agents for the energy drink Minotaur. As they tour local middle and high schools, Danny begins to feel the pangs of middle age closing in when he realizes that he has spent the previous ten years of his life working in a job that he does not enjoy.
Although he has a beautiful girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks), Danny feels constricted by his life. Meanwhile, Wheeler is taking pleasure in his simplistic life, focusing the majority of his energy on sleeping with women. On a particularly apathetic day for Danny, he and Wheeler walk out of one of the schools to find their truck being towed. Rather than pay the fine and get the Minotaur-truck later, Danny opts to try and steal the car back while, unfortunately, in the presence of a cop.
Danny’s plan goes awry, and he and Wheeler end up with 150 hours of community service at a “big brother” center called Helping Hands. Here, they are paired with the two most difficult children in the program.
Wheeler is stuck with the foul-mouthed 12-year-old Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson, funny in his breakout role), while Danny is matched with Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Despite their unfortunate circumstances, the volunteer situation for Danny and Wheeler is better than the alternative: 30 days in jail.
Although there is no significant depth to it, the movie’s plot serves its purpose and provides the perfect backdrop for a barrage of hilarious and oftentimes crude jokes. The quick back-and-forth dialogues between each of the paired actors feel natural and almost caught in the moment.
Paul Rudd really shines, as he’s given one of his first lead roles in large-scale production comedy, after serving in the sideline as supporting characters in Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The rapport between the older and younger actors is exceptional, with Bobb’e J. Thompson holding his own against his more experienced co-stars.
Fortunately, Role Models does not fall victim to the more gag-oriented style jokes and gross-out humor that often befalls similar comedies, including Sex Drive and Step Brothers. However, a lot of the humor is crude and vulgar, but that hopefully will not deter anyone from seeing the film.
The directing is nothing exceptional, and although David Wain is familiar to the genre (Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten), his directing has always seemed somewhat bland while remaining satisfactorily unobtrusive to the events on-screen. However, no one really goes to a comedy for the potential to be wowed by the innovative camerawork and mise-en-scène.
The film does succumb to a contrived ending, but that in no way detracts from all of its excellent qualities, and the more emotionally touching aspects of the script work well to help strengthen the connection between the characters and the audience. If you want a break from all of the Oscar-bait movies that will flood the theaters this winter season, or even if you are in the mood just to see a good comedy, Role Models is a must-see.