>> Fantastic Fest/AICN Secret Screening #3: Role Models

Paul Rudd can finally lay claim to being a comedic leading man.  Managing to avoid mugging or schtick, Rudd brings a distinct kind of sarcasm to his comedy, one that comes from a place an audience can relate to, instead of through cynicism or a mean spiritedness.  I can’t quite think of anyone else like Rudd, and with the new David Wain film, Role Models, hopefully, he’ll become an A-list comedic force.

I say “hopefully” because Role Models feels a little like a movie from a different time and place–namely the last turn of the century.  Sean William Scott brings a decidedly Year 2000 aura with him, seemingly stuck to forever play the Stifler role, no matter how long it’s been since audiences seem to have lost interest in Scott’s schtick.  Jokes about energy drinks, Ben Affleck movies, Starbucks, and KISS nostalgia all feel like things that were written seven or eight years ago (Some folks might remember the KISS merchandise boom of the late 90’s/early 00’s, with toys, comics, and various knick-knacks crowding the shelves at the mall).  According to Wain’s own admission, the script had been around for a while with Scott attached to star.  I can believe it.  The Affleck jokes and Scott’s hornball persona are especially dusty.

Scott and Rudd are two co-workers, promoters for an energy drink called Minotaur, that end up wrecking their company car after a particularly bad day.  They’re sentenced by a judge to participate at Sturdy Wings (run by the always funny Jane Lynch), a “big brother” program where they are each assigned a problem child to look after for the duration of their sentence.  Scott ends up with Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson), a foul-mouthed brat with sex on the brain.  Rudd gets Augie (Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse), an awkard teen with a love for LARP (live-action role-playing).  Of course, life lessons are learned by all.  Role Models is formulaic stuff, especially for Wain who made his career on the fringes of alternative comedy.

However, as far as the mainstream comedy formula goes, Role Models works.  It’s actually kind of a sweet movie, yet firmly committed to its R rating, which makes it something that I haven’t quite seen before–the R-rated family film.  I admit the movie is downright crass at times, but the story of these guys becoming very real friends with these kids is almost (but not quite) warm and fuzzy.  The lines come sharp and quick, keeping the audience laughing hard enough to overlook the movie’s complete lack of ambition.  It’s perfectly happy being a dirty little studio comedy, one that will (hopefully) be remembered as Rudd’s breakout starring role.

7 on a 1 to 10 scale

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