This is an easy one this week. There is no historical value, cinema language, or back story intrigue to make this a movie you should see. It is just funny as all get out with wiseacre talk, inappropriate life lessons and a cast of funny people who are just trying to entertain you for a couple of hours. If you are a fan of films like “I Love Man” or “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” then you don’t want to miss this treat starring the slacker gods Sean William Scott and Paul Rudd. This is dumb comedy done in a smart way and it has so many quotable lines that it could easily displace Caddyshack on the list of guy movies that guys will quote incessantly.
The premise is basic. Two guys who work together get into a legal tangle and have to do some community service as a way of avoiding jail time. They get sent over to “Sturdy Wings” a mentoring organization along the lines of Big Brothers. Here they are matched with a couple of youngsters and the bonding and hilarity ensue.
I’m not sure why Sean William Scott gets the crap I hear flung at him. He has made a bunch of films that are entertaining and while he is not really a thespian per se, he is usually cast very well and “Role Models” may very well be his perfect role. As Wheeler, the less ambitious and more socially satisfied of the two, he espouses wisdom like a college student, after midnight on a three hour buzz from the hot box he got out of on his way to the frat party. While there are some drug references, this is not a stoner film like the Seth Rogan comedies of the past ten years. Wheeler is an amiable goof who probably will not get far in life but who deserves every friend he has.
Typical Wheeler Philosophy:
Wheeler: Never stare at the boobies, kid. Once you get caught, the game’s over.
Ronnie Shields: But how?
Wheeler: It’s called training. You know, being aware without drawing attention. You don’t think I’ve noticed those 34 C’s in the camouflage tank top setting up a tent directly to the left of us? Or how about those twin cannons hiking up a mountain ridge 50 yards due west? Or the ridge itself? Round mounds of grass shaped like…
Ronnie Shields: Boobies!
Wheeler: Don’t look over there. Look here. Focus… You’ll get it.
Wheeler’s counterpart is Danny, the spokesperson for an energy drink who despises his job. Danny is at the point in life where he is afraid he is settling and he does not like it. Paul Rudd plays him as if he has a chip on his shoulder and he uses it to justify being a douche to everyone around him. Obviously, the events in the film are designed to be a wake up call for him to adjust his attitude. Thankfully, before that happens we get an exchange like this:
Danny: Large black coffee.
Barista: Do you mean a venti?
Danny: No, I mean a large.
Barista: Venti is large.
Danny: No, venti is twenty. Large is large. In fact, tall is large and grande is Spanish for large. Venti is the only one that doesn’t mean large. It’s also the only one that’s Italian. Congratulations, you’re stupid in three languages.
Sturdy Wings is founded and run by addict turned do-gooder Gayle Sweeny, played by the acerbic Jane Lynch. She is in the movie for about ten minutes and steals every scene she appears in. Her lines are some of the most foul and most quotable and of course the most funny. Before she was drained of all her charm by “Glee” she made this movie a comic gem by her presence. If “Big Bird” was a human, he’d look and move like Gayle (of course that language would never come out of his mouth).
The two kids that Danny and Wheeler get matched up with are nightmares themselves. Ronnie, is a pre teen firecracker with the mouth of a sailor. In a battle of wits with Wheeler, the kid wins most of the time. Bobb’e J. Thompson has personality to spare and he plays up the part so well that I wondered how they got away with the dialogue he has to speak. Maybe I’m a little sheltered but if I met a nine year old kid with a mouth like that, I’d be looking for child protective services to take him out of the environment he is being raised in.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse is so familiar a face in movies now a days, that it is hard to remember what a sensation he was in “Superbad”. This was his next role, playing the awkward Augie. A socially maladjusted teen, maybe a little old for the program but who needs the kind of attention a good pal would bring. You get a sense of what kind of fun friend he could be when he encourages Danny to use the phrase “Whispering Eye”. I won’t spoil it for you if you have not yet seen this.
A lot happens in the film as the two losers try to meet their hours of public service but don’t quite get how this service works. There is admittedly a cliche heartwarming plot line that takes up the second act and will have few surprises but a bucket load of laughs. Sometimes the last part of a movie is a letdown for viewers. How can the characters live up to the potential that has been created in the first two thirds of the movie. “Role Models” answers that question by bringing in the greatest plot twist a classic rock fan like me could want. A special guest appearance by “Kiss”. OK, not really but in spirit at least.
It’s too complicated to explain so just let the joy of the moment of arrival wash over you. I cheered and laughed and decided right there that this was the greatest movie ever made! I don’t really think so but ask me at the right time and I could commit to that opinion again.
My guess is that most of you have seen the movie so this is a reminder that it should be experienced on a regular basis. It is full of odd ball characters and incredibly funny snark. If you have never watched it, get ready for a blast. If you get to Wheeler’s explanation of Paul Stanley’s lyrics of “Love Gun” and you don’t laugh, turn off the movie and good luck to you. Everybody else should get ready to “Rock and Roll all Night and Part of Every day.” (sic)
Richard Kirkham is a lifelong movie enthusiast from Southern California. While embracing all genres of film making, he is especially moved to write about and share his memories of movies from his formative years, the glorious 1970s. His personal blog, featuring current film reviews as well as his Summers of the 1970s movie project, can be found at Kirkham A Movie A Day.