Although the likes of Knocked Up and Superbad propelled writer/star Seth Rogen into the limelight, many of his compatriots in these comedic adventures have a fair amount of talent in and of themselves and some have just never had the parts that they really deserve. A prime example is the now forty-year-old Paul Rudd, co-star in the likes of 40 Year Old Virgin, Anchorman and Forgetting Sarah Marshall (and the above-mentioned Knocked Up). He may not have quite the same unique appeal as Rogen (who can pretty-much carry a movie by himself, as is evident from his latest hilarious escapade Observe and Report), but perhaps the reason why we can't picture him in the lead is because he has never had the opportunity. Last year's Role Models attempted to, if not give him sole reign, at least pitch him as one of the two main stars. So how did he fare?
Danny and Wheeler are energy drink salesmen who ride around from school to school in their minotaur-decorated truck pitching their product in assembly halls as a great alternative to taking illegal drugs. They survive their 'tours' sustained only by the very drink they are pitching, which keeps them awake and alert and turns certain bodily fluids radioactive green. After returning to a surprise party celebrating Danny's 10th year on the job, Danny suffers a mini mid-life crisis and decides to on-the-spur-of-the-moment propose to his girlfriend - with whom he's having a rough patch. Needless to say things don't go according to plan, and after a breakdown-style escapade in a school, both Danny and Wheeler end up being sentenced to 150 hours of mentoring problem children. Danny's lumbered with a RPG nerd who lives his entire life in a fantasy world of knights and kings and imaginary kingdoms, whilst Wheeler - the carefree, more laidback of the two - gets partnered up with an angry little ten year old boy who swears and shouts and refuses to do anything he says. Cue plenty of silly antics trying to get used to their respective new 'buddies', some relationship angst, some ridiculous RPG setpieces, plenty of in-movie trivia jokes (in the style of Superbad et al.) and a slightly cutesy narrative that is arguably a little more sugary sweet and predictable than many of this movie's ilk.
Co-written by Rudd himself, Role Models is a distinct 7/10 movie, not an outstanding comedic effort like Superbad or Knocked Up, nor a particularly poignant look at the Big Brother mentoring scheme for kids or parental upbringing as a whole - or middle-aged crisis either - instead it is just a fairly standard, but often laugh-out-loud funny comedy in the same vein as all of the above-mentioned movies. It will keep you entertained for the most part, make you really laugh at key moments, and smile amusingly for the rest of the time, but rewatch value is limited when compared to some of its counterparts - it's more like The Heartbreak Kid or Forgetting Sarah Marshall in terms of enjoyability, and is a little more flimsy than some of the movies before it.
Paul Rudd's star power has probably already passed its peak too, although he does well to hold things together, working superbly with Seann William Scott, another supporting comedy actor who has carved out a niche for himself as a companion in enjoyable action-comedy movies like The Rundown and Bulletproof Monk. They both play to their best capabilities, although do seem a little past these particular antics. Folly and foolishness to this extreme has become passé, particularly for Scott, who appears to be good at nothing else. Still, they do their jobs well, and are teamed up with - respectively - Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McGlovin from Superbad, now looking a little older and behaving a little more annoyingly) and relative newcomer Bobb'e J. Thompson, who easily has the best lines in the whole movie. His scenes almost justify this movie's existence by themselves.
Elizabeth Banks, of Anchorman/Zack and Miri fame, plays Danny's would-be fiancée, but gets little to work with here, whereas 40 Year Old Virgin's Jane Lynch gets a fantastic role as the totally deranged Big Brother manager who arranges for the duo to be mentors. Brimming with misused idioms - that come out like platitudes - she is practically psychotic and positively hilarious.
If there is one thing that is perhaps misplaced in Role Models, it is the fact that it dedicates far too much of its fairly short runtime to the Role Playing Game that one of the kids is obsessed with. Rather than totally parody it, the movie goes more in the direction of semi-embracing it, but few viewers back home will understand how anybody could truly devolve to this level. Whilst it does allow for some other Superbad/Knocked Up familiar faces to pop up (the doctor from Knocked Up and the rather strange man who runs over Seth and then invites him to the party in Superbad), it takes up far too much time, and becomes the key climax. Funny at the outset, I think they take the joke a little too far, and it is perhaps the one thing that Role Models noticeably falls down on. Still, it is a fairly consistently amusing and engaging affair, with laugh-out-loud moments and entertaining film trivia populated throughout (Rudd's wooing of his girlfriend with film quotes is a high point), as well as two solid performances from the comedic duo at centre of it all. A solid supporting cast, and a few surprising gems from those little-known contributors and you have a good if not great comedy that most fans of all of the aforementioned movies will happily enjoy. It will not go down in comedic history as a Superbad or a Knocked Up, but it works well as a fun companion-piece to add to the genre.
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