Role Models
dir David Wain
scr Paul Rudd, David Wain, Ken Marino, Timothy Dowling
with Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb'e J Thompson, Elizabeth Banks, Jane Lynch, Nicole Randall Johnson, Alexandra Stamler, Ken Jeong, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio, Matt Walsh
release US 7.Nov.08, UK 2.Jan.09
08/US Universal 1h39
Role Models
In trouble again: Mintz-Plasse, Rudd, Scott and Thompson

banks lynch jeong
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Role Models Disarmingly likeable characters and a genuinely engaging story set this gross-out romp apart from other Apatow-style adult comedies. And the script somehow manages to maintain some intelligence even in the silliest gags.

Wheeler and Danny (Scott and Rudd) have worked together promoting a power drink in schools for 10 years, a fact that delights Wheeler but horrifies Danny. Especially on the day his girlfriend (Banks) dumps him. After an ugly meltdown, both are sentenced to community service in a mentoring programme, where the manager (Lynch) assigns them two very difficult cases: adolescent gamer nerd Augie (Mints-Plasse) and foul-mouthed pre-teen Ronnie (Thompson). Of course, Wheeler and Danny are seriously bad role models, but that may be just what these troubled kids need.

What catches us off-guard is that beneath the vulgar humour beats a surprisingly sensitive examination of self-identity and community connection. For all the fun the script pokes at various subcultures, it also recognises the power of friendship whatever the setting. The primary target for humour is Augie's medieval role-playing world, with its prissy king (Jeong) and doe-eyed damsel (Stamler). But even this is spun to feel-good effect. And even though many of the jokes are of the "ooh look, that little kid is swearing like a sailor!" variety, the film actually has a soft heart.

It helps that Scott and Rudd are affable losers. Their performances are so off-handed and natural that we can't help but root for them, even when they do stupid things. And they have terrific chemistry that makes the hackneyed rom-com structure work, undermining the sentimentality while still making us sigh. Meanwhile, Mintz-Plasse gives a terrific turn that crushes teen cliches as effectively as McLovin in Superbad. And Lynch hysterically steals the show with over-the-edge dialog that makes the most of her improvisational skills.

Along the way, the script reaches far and wide for jokes that are goofy, subtle, pointed or utterly ridiculous. But the balance somehow works because the filmmakers never push it too far, and this gentle tone constantly confounds expectations. This approach is a welcome break from Judd Apatow's similar but more aggressive single-note approach to grown-up comedy. Yes, it's still riotously funny, but there's a bit more to it than that.

cert 15 themes, language, vulgarity, innuendo 11.Nov.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall