In Role Models the Apatow gang collides with the less successful members of the cult comedy troupe known as The State, and the result is a movie with all the hilarity of an Apatow movie and all of the cold, lifeless disconnect which has kept The State from breaking into the mainstream.
Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott star as Danny and Wheeler, two salesmen who spend their days selling energy drinks to kids as an acceptable substitute for illegal drugs. Wheeler loves his gig but Danny is dissatisfied, and turmoil in his personal life finally pushes him past the breaking point. Danny’s breakdown lands both he and Wheeler in legal trouble, and to keep out of jail they’re forced to join a big brother program called “Sturdy Wings”.
That’s where Role Models’ problems start. Once Danny and Wheeler enter the Sturdy Wings program, they cease to have lives of their own. It’s as if Danny and Wheeler only exist as long as they’re doing the big brother thing; they have a limited shelf life, and you feel it. These aren’t real people we’re watching, merely caricatures being thrust into a variety of funny and awkward situations involving kids. Even though Danny and Wheeler’s existence is paper thin, the movie is funny, and a lot of the credit for that has to go to those kids.
Wheeler is assigned a foul mouthed pre-teen named Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson), who on being introduced to his new big brother, immediately sets out to have him arrested as a pedophile. Ronnie curses and slaps his way through the movie, a sassy little kid in the mold of Gary Coleman, if Coleman were addicted to the F word. Ronnie may be hilarious, but he clearly needs a father figure. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, better known as the infamous McLovin, plays Danny’s little brother Augie Farks. He spends his days with a group of like-minded geeks, wearing capes, brandishing swords, and engaged in a massive, live-action role-playing games. It’s Augie that quickly becomes the center of the film’s attention as Danny, in an effort to stay out of prison, becomes sucked into his world of pretend chivalry.
By the end, Role Models has given itself over almost entirely to Augie’s live action role playing, and the result is not only incredibly funny, but in a weird way a little inspiring. McLovin runs away with the movie and exploring his nerddom pays huge dividends, so it’s easy to see why the film eventually abandons everything else in favor of focusing on it. Unfortunately, while that may have resulted in bigger laughs, it also results in a somewhat uneven, two-dimensional experience which in the end, isn’t good for anything more than a few forgettable, if wholly enjoyable, chuckles.