Grown men swearing. That, essentially was the premise of the cookie-cutter atypical trailer which preceded Role Models’ release, portraying it as little more than your generic Apatowesque (is that a word? It is now) comedy so as to draw in the masses. It is a pleasant surprise, then, to discover that there is more to Role Models than meets the eye.
The film follows the exploits of acerbically detached Danny (Paul Rudd) and imbecilic man-child Wheeler (Sean William Scott), who trek around dressed as minotaurs selling kids drinks containing more sugar than Marlon Brando’s bloodstream. That is until Rudd finally flips, forcing the two of them to serve community service as “bigs” – role models to children under the increasingly-deranged eye of Talledega Nights’ Jane Lynch.
Rudd (who co-wrote) is simply brilliant as the world-weary loser who has lost all joy in life. Oozing despair and wearily throwing out cyniscisms, his Starbucks-set tirade against cup sizes has to be seen to be believed. Scott, meanwhile, appears to be basically playing himself, or at least or at least the version of him which resides within the public imagination. Swaggering around the film with a hypnotically idiotic grin and a massive pair of ladybumps to ogle not far behind, he may not be as engaging a character as Rudd’s but remains a likeable presence.
Where Role Models excels is in juggling the bittersweet with the belly laughs; for every time Scott makes a sex gag there’s a touching scene between Rudd and Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Passe. And, although Bobb’e J Thompson’s role as a pint-sized potty mouth may grate slightly, he does get some good lines, particularly in his ridiculous joshing of Rudd (“you white, then you Ben Affleck!”). The scenes involving Mintz-Passe’s fantasy wargames, too, are brilliant, populated by hideous grotesques such as Ken Jeong’s horrifically perverted monarch.
Role Models is, in short, a gem of a comedy, replete with canny witticisms and banal body humour in equal measure which ensure it always hits the right mark. Although the film’s morality may seem to take a slight swerve towards the end when our main characters start to “learn lessons” and whatnot, it remains a delightful, if filthy, comedic jaunt.