“Role Models”
At Quality 16 and Showcase
Universal

Courtesy of Universal

3.5 out of 5 Stars

Danny (Paul Rudd, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) is having a pretty crappy day. His girlfriend of seven years (Elizabeth Banks, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”) just broke up with him and his job, delivering inspirational “stay off drugs” messages to kids while promoting energy drinks, just plain sucks. He snaps and, along with his partner in crime Wheeler (Seann William Scott, “The Rundown”), drives his bull-shaped car into a high school’s statue.

Rather than go to jail, the two men are assigned 150 hours of community service at Sturdy Wings, a center where adults act as figurative big brothers, or “bigs” as they’re known in the film, to younger children, or “littles.” The two men are each stuck with kids formerly considered unwanted — Danny gets Augie Farks (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, “Superbad”) and Wheeler gets paired with Ronnie Shields (relative newcomer Bobb’e J. Thompson, “Idlewild”).

Augie spends his days dressed as a warrior from medieval times, “battling” other people in the park, while Ronnie is a foul-mouthed hell-raiser who steals Wheeler’s car and slaps him in the face. Oh, will these “bigs” and “littles” ever learn to get along?

Even though the kids are total weirdos, soon Wheeler and Ronnie are bonding over their shared love of boobs and Danny discovers that Augie is actually pretty cool, despite wearing a cape and practicing swordplay on rooftops. It’s a cute premise, but the film takes us nowhere we haven’t been before. It’s “Kindergarten Cop” with an R-rating and a filthy sense of humor.

“Role Models” begs the question: Why hasn’t Paul Rudd been given a leading role before? He has all the charm for it, and shows it in a scene in which he attempts to win back his girlfriend by just quoting romantic lines from other films (even “Ghostbusters”). Seann William Scott has less to do, basically playing a grown-up Stifler from the “American Pie” franchise. But he still knows how to deliver absolutely dirty lines with giddy aplomb.

The two young boys more than keep up with their older counterparts; Mintz-Plasse in particular proves he can definitely play the lovable nerd. It’s uncertain if he can ever break out of such a role, but for now, it works. In addition, every scene with the recovered-drug addict head of Sturdy Wings (the scene-stealing Jane Lynch, “The 40 Year Old Virgin”) is absolutely hilarious.

Though the film is a faithful follower of typical “slacker boy” comedies (think “Knocked Up” and “Superbad”), it still manages to carry its own weight. It achieves hilarity without foraying into the gross-out humor that’s so prevalent among its counterparts. It’s cleverly written, and pulled off by actors who appreciate the art of a well-timed line.

The joke of the title is that these two men are not even close to what a role model should be. They’re crude, selfish and pretty much straight-up douchebags. The best part of the film is that, while the men discover how to be good citizens, they never fully change. They remain gleefully vulgar, but with bigger hearts.

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