Role Models

Role Models is not a great movie, but it’s a surprisingly feel-good one. Alas, it’s so full of foul language that most of the people who would enjoy the movie won’t be allowed to see it.

I’m bored to tears with the boy-man thing so popular lately with movies like Knocked Up and Superbad, so it was with trepidation that I approached Role Models. It won me over, at least some of it did. I laughed a lot and even had lump in my throat a few times — yeah, I felt manipulated, but there are so many movies claiming to be funny that weren’t, that to find one that really is funny, is a treat.

Paul Rudd (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), who also co-wrote the script with director David Swain (The Ten), is one of the most bland actors on the planet. His character in the movie is the same. Danny Donahue is a joyless, cynical guy, going nowhere in his relationship with lovely attorney Beth (Elizabeth Banks, Zack and Mini Make a Porno). His job is to give anti-drug talks to school kids, while pushing the high-energy soft drink, Minotaur. His work partner is Wheeler, a carefree goofball played by Sean William Scott (Mr. Woodcock), who wears the wooly Minotaur outfit. Scott is the same character in every role he plays, but he’s so appealing and enthusiastic about everything that he’s a pleasure to watch and I confess I’m a big fan.

The two guys have a really bad day and crash their fire-breathing Minotaur truck into the horse statue in front of a school. In lieu of 30 days in jail, lawyer Beth manages to get them the option of doing 150 hours of community service. They reluctantly sign up to be “Big Brothers” in the Sturdy Wings program that pairs men with troubled boys. Sturdy Wings is the project of manic reformed cocaine addict Gayle Sweeney, played with crude glee by veteran TV actress Jane Lynch.

Wheeler is assigned to Ronnie Shields (Bobb’e J. Thompson, Columbus Day), a pint-sized tyrant with a giant potty-mouth. Once you get over the shock of hearing a string of foul words coming from a kid who’s no higher than your shoulder, the little monster becomes somewhat endearing.

Donahue’s charge is Augie Farks, a tall, geeky loner who prefers to live in a fantasy world of medieval knights than in the real world with his unsympathetic mother and stepfather. Augie is played by the terrific Christopher Mintz-Plasse, whose unique, sweet lisping quirkiness lit up his first film, Superbad.

The man-boys, of course, do stupid selfish things that hurt their young charges. Being a comedy, they acquire a change of heart, or a dose of maturity, realize how important the kids are, and turn everything around in the end, becoming, indeed, and finally, good role models. Being based on a clever script, the process of getting to the turn around is not only believable, but charming, colorful and exciting to boot. I felt good when the movie was over and the audience loved it.

That doesn’t mean I recommend you go out and spend your hard-earned dollars seeing Role Models in the theatre. You can wait until it comes out on DVD–and then you might also get to see in the extra features, the scenes that were in the preview but not in the film.

Remember the movie’s not for everyone. If you don’t like foul language or the adolescent fascination with women’s body parts, forget it. If you like a few laughs no matter what brings it about, go for it.

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