Role Models (Unrated)

No matter what actor, actress, or athlete America opts to put on a pedestal for the youth of America, he or she is bound to mess up at some point or another. It is impossible for these people in the public eye to be perfect every second so youngsters can look up to them. There will come a point in time where a role model is caught smoking pot with college students, or films his or her sexcapades in some ritzy hotel, or spews some sort of racial slur. Some may bounce back while other fade off into obscurity, but the truth is, they're human, just like you and me. And, heck, we all screw up. Danny Donahue (Paul Rudd) and Wheeler (Sean William Scott) spend their days peddling an energy drink called Minotaur to school children while trying to keep them off of drugs. While Wheeler is completely satisfied by days dressed up as a mythological beats, Danny seems to have grown desensitized to everything in his life after spewing the same speech at children, for the same company, for 10 years. Danny's hatred for his dead-end job overflows into his personal life and reaches its peak when his girlfriend, Beth (Elizabeth Banks), breaks up with him and moves out of the house they share, and he crashes the company truck into a statue outside of a local high school (after several, often funny, mishaps during his "Don't do drugs" speeches).

This leads us to our main characters having to complete 150 hours of community service by participating in a big brother-type program called Sturdy Wings, which is run by Gayle Sweeny (Jane Lynch), an odd woman who was apparently once addicted to coke and sex (and by the way she acts, probably still is). Danny and Wheeler are introduced to Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson), a foul-mouthed boob aficionado with no father figure in his life, and Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a nerdy introvert obsessed with the medieval role-playing game L.A.I.R.E. Trying to avoid being sent to jail, Wheeler, a foul-mouthed, sexually-obsessed, KISS fan becomes the "big" for Ronnie, while the reserved and negative Danny gets to spend time with Augie.

Role Models does have several laugh-out-loud moments, such as Wheeler's foul-mouthed lecture to Ronnie on KISS songs having to do with sex, Danny's explanation of the "Starbucks" menu, and pretty much anything that comes out of Ronnie's mouth (especially when he first meets Wheelers and tries to have him removed as his Big for touching him the wrong way). Role Models also has a well-written storyline from David Wain and Rudd, and impressive character development for a 101 minute comedy.

The casting for Role Models is also very much on target. Despite the fact that he's 20-years-old, you will not find a better Augie than Mintz-Plasse. However, if you're watching this movie to see the revival of Superbad's McLovin, I suggest you leave your expectations at the door, because this is not that character - nowhere near it. William Scott is perfect as Wheeler, but it feels a lot like Stiffler has been slacking off since the original American Pie, and is still trying to sit by the keg with the fraternity brothers despite the fact he graduated 10 years ago. Rudd still plays the wisecracking malcontent better than anyone in the game today, and Thompson's casting is nothing more than pure genius - from the second Ronnie starts to curse, you will be hooked on this kid. Banks and Lynch are merely the Velcro being used to keep the story together. Banks is the lawyer that helps keep Danny and Wheeler out of jail, she is Danny's love interest, and she's pretty to look at, while Lynch is the enforcer. Throw in some faces you'll recognize from other Judd Apatow projects (such as Ken Jeong, who plays the King of the role playing game, but you'll recognize him as the gynecologist from Knocked Up), and you have a great comedic cast.

So, what's wrong with these Role Models? Besides being dull for the final 30 minutes or so, it's far too formulaic and predictable. You know Danny and Wheeler will hate spending time with these kids at the beginning, and hang out with them because they want to avoid jail. You know they will eventually begin to like these kids and find bits of themselves in them. You know they will eventually let Ronnie and Augie down. You also know that Danny and Wheeler will make it up to them, even if part of that is playing this ridiculously boring role playing game Augie seems to love so much. I understand this role playing game is a huge part of what makes the Augie character funny at times, but it takes up far too much of the movie. It seems like Augie becomes the focus of the movie - not Danny and Wheeler, who are, you know, the Role Models. The jokes also come few and far between, especially after the first 50 minutes or so of the movie. While there are plenty of moments to keep you laughing, there are just as many moments that will leave you guessing.

Role Models, to me, is kind of like the life of Britney Spears in the public eye. It starts off as something very special, filled with high expectations and tons of potential. As time goes on, she explores new opportunities as new doors open up to her, some are more successful than others. Then comes Kevin Federline, and the shit hits the fan. Everything goes haywire - she gets knocked up a few times, picks up smoking cigarettes, flashes her hoo-ha when no one wants to see it, and loses the amazing figure that once made her every man's fantasy. Sure, there are moments of hilarity - she shaves her head, starts dating random paparazzi photographers, lip synchs her songs poorly, and hits cars with umbrellas - en route to the intervention by friends and family who try to put things in perspective. The comes the turn around, where she tries to get back in the good graces of everyone who once loved her. But, in the end, it really doesn't matter, because while she offers up a modest amount of entertainment, she's really just a glorified stripper who was never such a good role model in the first place. I'm just going to throw this out there: I'm a good role model for young men. I don't have all the many bad habits, I work hard and I am a good, decent person. I admit, if your kid is obsessed with role playing games, enjoys magic more than he does sports or women, or believes it's all right to play with dolls, I may make fun of him quite a bit. I mean, I'm not going to poke him with a stick or beat him up, I'm just going to stand there, laugh and point at him, as he ducks down in the corner or his room, crying, and holding the blanket he's had since he was born. Wait, that's what you do as a parent? OK, nevermind.

When you start the DVD for Role Models - after watching, or skipping through, the trailers - you will have the option to watch the film in the theatrical version or the unrated version. If you choose the theatrical version, it doesn't necessarily mean that you suck at life, it just means that you spent money on an Unrated Edition of a DVD and opted not to watch what you paid for - even though I am sure you can barely tell the difference between the two versions.

The special features kick off with deleted scenes and alternate takes - there are a total of 19 of them. Normally, I find these features to be a waste of time because, if these scenes are not in the movie, who the hell cares unless they're bloopers? In this case, I admit, they're fun to watch. "Coffee Shop" is another take to one of the funnier scenes in the movie. This version, while very funny (probably even funnier than what's in the film) would not have fit because Banks' character goes off in this conceited rant about her body, her looks, her amazing legs in otherwise painful heels, and the fact that she still allows Danny to have sex with her after seven years together. The version in the movie, while still funny, is much more tame for the straight-laced character of Beth. Another must-see, at least for the first few seconds of the scene, is "Soccer Mom," where Ronnie helps a woman in a Chuck-E-Cheese type of place and the woman comments on how cute he is, "good enough to eat." Ronnie replies, "You look good enough to eat, too. Specifically, your bush." The rest of the scene is all right, but watching a 10-year-old say that to a woman is pretty damn funny, just like a lot of these scenes.

As far as blooper reels go, the one on this disc is kind of weak. Yeah, there are a few moments that will make you laugh, but I think it's more because the actors are laughing more than they're doing or saying something funny. Oh, and normally, for some reason, studios feel the need to put corny music behind these blooper reels, but Role Models doesn't use any kind of music track. Surprisingly, I think this blooper reel could use some funny music, or, I don't know, just something funny.

"On the Set of Role Models" starts off with McLovin (sorry, had to call him that once just for fun) flicking Rudd's nipples to see if it gets them hard. That leads into the actors talking about director/writer David Wain's obsession with the F-word and penises. That leads into Wain talking about his rapport with Rudd and their constant rewrites and improvisations on set. That leads into Rudd talking about his writing his character (which only seems to be different from his roles in 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall by location and the fact that he wears a suit in some scenes). That leads into a rather unconventional and funny "On the Set" type of feature, which normally show a bunch of people standing around trying to look important.

One feature I could do without is "Game On: Creating a Role Playing World." Maybe I have such disdain for this feature because it took a lot of humor out of the movie, but maybe it's also because the feature actually talked about it and I'm not interested in role playing games. It's like going to a strip club expecting to see a woman and finding a hairy, bald man teaching math.

The final feature is called "In Character & Off-Script," and I don't get it. It's not that it's not creative or funny ('cause some of it is), I just don't get the purpose of it. Reading the title, you would believe the feature is going to, possibly, various improv scenes attempted by the cast of the movie - since that is something Rudd and crew are known to do. But, this has three scenes - "Sturdy Wings Salutes: A.D. Miles," "Kuzzik: Proud Xanthian," and, "David of Glencracken" - and they all have the people playing their characters from the movie in, basically, mini-movies about characters that were funny in bit-roles. I just don't get it. It's like cheesy crust pizza. Pizza is tasty and fattening enough as it is, do we really need more cheese in the crust? C'mon.