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November 2008
Role Models

by Kam Williams

Role Models


Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: David Wain
Screenwriter: David Wain, Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, Tim Dowling, W. Blake Herron
Starring: Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jane Lynch, Bobb'e J.Thompson, Elizabeth Banks
Genre: Comedy
MPAA Rating: R (for crude and sexual content, strong language and nudity)


   








Slackers Mentor Troubled Kids in Crass Shock Comedy

Sometimes a promising production can add up to far less than the sum of its parts. Case in point: Role Models. Director David Wain (The Ten) probably thought he had an inspired idea when he cast his crass comedy with some of the most famous faces from recent teensploits, including Seann William Scott, aka Stiffler from the American Pie franchise, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, aka McLovin from Superbad, Bobb’e J. Thompson aka Slam from Fred Claus, and blonde-of-the-moment Elizabeth Banks, who just this year has been in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Meet Dave, W. and Definitely, Maybe.

The film also features MD-turned standup comic Dr. Ken Jeong, a colorful character actor with memorable outings in Knocked Up or Pineapple Express. Then there’s Reno 911!’s Kerri Kenney and scene-stealer Jane Lynch who’s best known for her unforgettable cameo as a cougar in heat in The 40 Year-Old Virgin.

Regrettably, here, this admittedly gifted ensemble has been assembled in service of a relentlessly coarse script which fails to do justice to any of their considerable talents. Instead of having them portray fresh characters, director Wain simply attempted to cash in on their former glory by having them reprise slight variations on their most celebrated roles.

At the point of departure, we find twenty-something best friends Wheeler (Scott) and Danny (Paul Rudd) visiting junior high schools to lecture students about the danger of drugs in their capacity as spokesmen for Minotaur energy drink. However, after they trash a company truck on a campus after a drunken binge during lunch, the pair ends up in court where they are offered the option of 150 hours of community service as mentors as an alternative to jail.

Although they have no parenting skills, they opt for the former, and are directed to the offices of Sturdy Wings, a charity whose inexplicably flirtatious founder (Lynch) assigns them a couple of youngsters to spend time with. Danny gets Augie (Mintz-Plasse), a 16 year-old nerd who spends all his free time dressing up in medieval outfits to participate in Dungeon and Dragons-style re-enactments, while Wheeler has his hands full with Ronnie (Thompson), a 10 year-old ghetto-gangsta with a mouth more foul than his own.

Of course, both these slackers initially prove to be failures as role models, with Danny exhibiting no sensitivity about Augie’s obsessive compulsive disorder, and party animal Wheeler carelessly exposing Ronnie to sex, drugs and rock & roll. Hauled back into court, it falls to Danny’s attorney ex-girlfriend, Beth (Banks), to beg the judge for mercy and one last chance to behave like decent Big Brothers.

Of course, they reform themselves the second time around, and more appropriately bond with the boys just before the obligatory “happily ever after” finale, but far too late in this critic’s opinion to undo the overall mean-spirited tone of the film. An irresponsible frittering away of the cinematic capital amassed by Stiffler, McLovin and other beloved icons of the teen genre.