Review: 'Role Models'

Role Models (movie)EducationHigh SchoolsSchoolsEntertainmentGamingMarvin Hamlisch

Like "Soul Men," this week's other crass comedy with loads of heart, "Role Models" wobbles like crazy en route to a surprisingly strong finish. In this case, the film-saving sequence is a medieval battle reenactment, full of Dungeons & Dragons freaks spouting phony Elizabethan argot. The sweetest of the obsessives, Augie, is played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, the fabulously adenoidal young actor who, in last year's "Superbad," turned one high school senior's adventures in fake IDs into comic gold. This is his second film. So far, at least when it comes to his scenes, so good.

A lot of "Role Models" is plain old tin. Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd play Wheeler and Danny, arrested-development boy-men who tour L.A. area schools talking about the evils of drugs while peddling the (fictional) line of Minotaur energy drinks. After wrecking the company truck, which is designed to look like a raging, caffeine-addled bull, the long arm of the law assigns the lads to 150 hours of community service, mentoring a couple of troubled youths in a program known as Sturdy Wings. Jane Lynch plays the program head, and her ability outclasses her material at every turn.

With his ex (Elizabeth Banks) out of the picture, Danny is assigned to Augie, nearly out of high school but unable to leave the cape-wearing, role-playing parts of his life alone for a second. Wheeler's kid is a foul-mouthed fifth-grader, Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson), being raised by a single mother. For a dangerously long time, "Role Models" tries to get laughs from Scott and Rudd referring to oral sex and pederasty as often as possible in front of their young charges.

Rudd is something of a genius when it comes to timing and inflection, but as one of this script's writers, he's wildly uneven. Director David Wain is another of the four writers, and behind the camera he has fared better ("Wet Hot American Summer") and worse ("The Ten").

Then comes Augie's role-playing battle royal, which tests the mettle and the character of all the principals. Wain shapes the climax very nicely. It's all of a piece in comic terms, and with Rudd and Scott running around dressed as KISS-inspired warriors, the visual gags keep coming. Still, "Role Models" wouldn't be anything without Mintz-Plasse, whose character occasions what may be the cinema's first really funny Marvin Hamlisch joke and whose camera presence is at once unfailingly modest and distinctive. When Augie finally works up the guts to talk to a female medieval-fair geek, played by Allie Stamler, it's like destiny clonking both of them on the head with a mallet.

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