Role Models, David Wain
's third feature as a director and co-writer, may be the first of the erstwhile The State member's films to actually feel fully-formed. Wain's first two films, Wet Hot American Summer and last year's The Ten
, felt more like collections of sketches and improvisational quips left over from sessions with his cohorts in The State and Stella, his other cancelled sketch show, than classic, three-act-structured movies. These aren't necessarily bad qualities when dealing with humor. In fact, both The Ten and Wet Hot American Summer are much funnier overall than his latest, but the softening of content is traded for a comforting semblance of plot.
As with his past two efforts, Wain's latest is top-lined by the invaluable Paul Rudd
, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Wain. He plays Danny, a spokesperson for Minotaur Energy Drink who spends his days telling teenagers not to do drugs with a fluffy Minotaur dancing behind him. Inside that jolly Minotaur costume is Wheeler (Seann William Scott
), a co-worker who wants nothing more than to be Dan's friend and get laid. This comes as a surprise as it seems that Danny has no friends save for his girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks
), and even she is beginning to tire of his wasting-my-life hissy fits. It's when Beth breaks it off that Dan loses it and tells a cafeteria filled with teenagers how awesome drugs are and how life sucks. That's before he mounts the Minotaur Mobile upon a statue of a horse. Article continues below
Both Dan and Wheeler are offered some time in jail or 150 days of community service at Sturdy Wings, a Big Brother proxy run by an ex-con (Jane Lynch
) with a love for cautionary tales about her days as a coke addict. She also has a psycho-sexual obsession with bagel dogs. Danny gets stuck with Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse
of Superbad fame) while Wheeler becomes ward to Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson
). Augie has an obsession with a Lord of the Rings-lite role-playing game; Ronnie has an obsession with breasts.
As much as low expectations are built into films like this, Role Models unexpectedly overcomes its tepid veneer, often flying into propulsive bouts of comedic energy. Scott, who has always been just a little underrated, shows good chemistry with both Rudd and Banks but he seems to have found his perfect foil with Thompson. How else could a pairing like this start but with Ronnie showing Wheeler a crayon drawing of Beyonce
pouring sugar on his penis? Watching Wheeler explain that Kiss' "Love Gun" is really about Paul Stanley's member is only topped by a stroll in the woods where Ronnie observes Wheeler's Jedi-like ability to spot breasts.
Rudd and Mintz-Plasse are less bawdy but have a subtle comedic rapport with one another. Hinged to the film's most sentimental storylines, they are given the dull task of holding up the film's plot while Scott and Thompson are allowed off the leash. That doesn't mean there's not time for a joke about Dan calling Beth's vagina a "whispering eye" nor that the climactic role-play battle royale isn't a brazenly funny dig at both fantasy and war films through the ages.
Wain is smart enough not to play it all as B-grade Apatow, although he has a similar acting entourage that includes Ken Marino, who co-wrote the script, Joe Lo Truglio, and Reno 911!
's Kerri Kenney. Unlike the majority of comedy directors, Wain allows for the humor to play out with minimal token scenes. Proudly irrelevant and inconsequential as it is, Role Models is buoyant and funny and has enough sense not to take itself seriously.