"Role Models" is a scruffy hit or miss comedy in the modern rude-boy style. An R-rated romp with drugs, naked women, kids cussing and a sentimental streak, it's surprising that it's not a Judd Apatow outing. But since it was conceived by and stars Paul Rudd, part of Apatow's inner circle, it might as well be.
Rudd and Seann William Scott star as two guys who peddle Minotaur energy drink to schools all over Southern California. They show up, hopped up on Minotaur but under the guise of "Minotaur says stay off drugs," and then sell "poison to our nation's youth."
That's the way Danny (Rudd) looks at it, anyway. Wheeler (Scott) is a big, happy strapping goof who uses his time in the Minotaur suit to hit on the teachers and anything else with a skirt.
Danny snaps on one school visit; they get arrested and are sentenced to community service. The judge sends them to Sturdy Wings, a "Big Brothers" style mentoring program where they have to put in 150 hours each with boys who, you guessed it -- need "Role Models."
Rudd does his dry, wry shtick, making obvious wisecracks at the pretentious coffee bar, playing Danny as a guy so sour on life that he's chased off the hot-lawyer girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks.. .. ..again). Scott does another variation on his Stifler doofus from "American Pie." But when Jane Lynch, another Apatow vet, shows up as the no-nonsense nutjob who runs Sturdy Wings, "Role Models" takes flight. Gayle Sweeney is the worst kind of do-gooder, the recovering addict do-gooder.
"I used to eat cocaine for breakfast," Gayle growls. She flirts, she insults, she makes threats. Every line is a laugh, every face she makes a giggle.
Gayle hooks the two losers up with Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse of "Superbad") and Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson). Two self-absorbed alleged grown-ups with no direction and no interest in kids have to interact with boys who could use a little mentoring.
Augie wears a cape. He's so deep into the medieval sword and sorcery L.A.I.R.E. role-playing game that he almost never breaks character. He's a nerd's nerd. When he's not saying "my liege" and practicing his fake sword-fighting, he's video gaming.
Ronnie is a 10-year-old jerk, ready to play the race card, too ready to play the molested child, quick with an insult. Danny is " Ben Affleck." Why? "You're white." He curses like rap star and lets Wheeler know, "I ain't your pal, Vanilla Ice."
Danny half-heartedly joins Augie's fantasy world (L.A.I.R.E. battles with legions of fellow-travelers) while wishing he could cure him of this life of unreality. Wheeler tries to turn Ronnie on to the pleasures of KISS.
The role-playing war games are where the gold is mined here. The sappy boy-bonding stuff just reminds us that the big laughs aren't big enough, or plentiful enough to cover the many dead spots in "Role Models."
From this movie's tone, language, intent and content, it's pretty obvious that Rudd's role model is Apatow. But as funny as some bits are (KISS makeup is always good for a laugh), the best you can say about "Role Models" is that it's imitation Apatow. It lacks the master's crude touch.