Starring: Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Christopher
Mintz-Plasse, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Jane Lynch. Rated R.
It’s easy to accuse Paul Rudd, who makes his big-screen
writing debut and stars in Role Models,
of borrowing a page from his pal Judd Apatow’s crass but disarmingly
soft-hearted playbook for this comedy about a criminally irresponsible pair of
adult mentors. But what exactly does that mean? That it’s funny?
Yes, Role Models is
just what you might expect, a juvenile farce that verges on the subversively
obscene without ever fully committing, that celebrates a sort of nihilistic,
anything-goes raunchiness before revealing its heart of gold. There’s nothing
wrong with a formula like this when it works. Here it does.
Sure, it might make for a nice change of pace if Apatow
and his de facto comedy troupe could rein in their tendency to romanticize male
bonding with sentimental about-faces, effectively calling off the dogs after a
spirited exchange of barbs. Then again, it might not. The world doesn’t need
another Step Brothers.
Rudd and co-star Seann William Scott’s styles complement
each other comfortably. Rudd’s deadpan often leaves him a bemused witness to
the madness around him, while Scott, in movies like The Dukes of Hazzard and American
Pie, hurls himself headlong into the absurdity. They
share a goofy, engaging chemistry as Danny and Wheeler, Peter
Pan-in-midlife-crisis types who find themselves required by the courts to spend
time with two troubled kids after Danny, in a fit of energy drink-fueled rage,
crashes their monster truck into a schoolyard.
There’s nothing surprising about the rocky road to
friendship that awaits Danny, Wheeler and their young charges. Augie
(Christopher Mintz-Plasse, of Superbad)
is obsessed with medieval fantasy, and if his parents think it odd that he’s
partial to wearing capes and loose-fitting tunics, he and his fellow
swashbucklers do not. Ronny (Bobb’e J. Thompson) is short, fatherless and
friendless, dropping F-bombs with the uncensored zeal of a young Eddie Murphy.
Neither is an obvious match for his big brother, and it is to director David
Wain’s credit that he treats the awkward attempts at cross-generational
camaraderie as something more than a premise for crude punch lines.
Of those, there are many, and a lot of them are actually funny. (Even most of the zingers that miss their
mark are enough to elicit a smile.) And that pretty much sums up Role Models. It's not about to redefine the comedy universe, but it's competently made with a cast that knows how
to bring out the humor in material that's sharper than you might expect. That should be enough.