Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Role Models

Posted By on Wed, Nov 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Wiseass Danny (Paul Rudd) and amiable dude Wheeler (Seann William Scott) have a peculiarly demeaning job — they cruise around in a monster truck peddling an antifreeze-colored energy drink to middle schoolers; Wheeler wears a furry costume while Danny delivers the bullshit pitch. The dead-end gig is turning Danny into a royal jerk, and when his long-suffering girlfriend (lovely Elizabeth Banks) dumps him, it leads to a major road-rage blowout with Wheeler stuck in the shotgun slot. This tantrum earns the guys 150 hours apiece of community service, reluctantly served as youth mentors. They're quickly saddled with a hilarious pair of problem kids, pint-sized potty-mouth Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson) and fantasy-obsessed dorkling Augie, in another standout geek performance by Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad). It's not the freshest premise, but it's enough for these funny pros to work, smuggling very smart stuff into a dumb comedy, Trojan horse-style.

Both the smug Rudd and the luminous Banks are now bordering on pop movie overexposure — it's like you can't make a comedy now without one of them — but director David Wain can claim he knew them when. (In 2001, they co-starred in his cult wonder Wet Hot American Summer.) Here Wain surrounds them with a killer support crew, with bit parts filled by many of his sketch comedy soulmates, including the always-brilliant Jane Lynch as the overeager head of the youth group.

Wain co-scripted Role Models with Rudd, and what could've been another wincing exercise in cuteness (Daddy Day Camp, we're gazing at you) is punched up with nudity, a dash of raunch and clever punch lines about Marvin Hamlisch, Fellini and live-action role playing. More, the whole climax involves grown-ups dressed as elves swinging plastic swords, and, just when it starts to sag, Rudd saves the day by singing a sweet version of the Kiss chestnut Beth, and neither Banks nor the audience can resist him.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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