Review: Role Models (2008)

Note: This article was originally published in Technician on November 10, 2008.


'Role Models' defines a model comedy

Just when you thought the R-rated comedy season had ended, we are treated to another dose of raunch and irresponsible behavior in Role Models.  This marks the latest release from Universal, whom I can only assume is seeking to compete with last week’s Zack and Miri Make A Porno.  Thankfully, where the latter failed, this film succeeds and manages to find a good balance between vulgarity and heartfelt drama.

The film follows two irresponsible energy drink representatives (Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott) who are forced to enroll in a Big Brother-style program for troubled kids. They’re put in charge of mentoring Augie and Ronnie, two young teens each with their separate set of problems. And when irresponsible adults meet irresponsible kids, you know something funny is bound to happen.

And does it ever. Role Models is the funniest film of the year so far, with the possible exception of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Rudd and Scott are in top form, and deliver punchlines with pitch-perfect timing. Whether it’s through conversations about the true nature of coffee-cup sizes or how to properly scope out well-endowed women, the script is filled with snappy dialogue that might fall flat in the hands of lesser actors. But they make it work, and it doesn’t take long for the viewer to actually sympathize with their situation, even if they can be rather unsympathetic.

This movie is all about the kids, though. Christopher Mintz-Plasse steals the show as Augie, an outcast teen who finds solace in fantasy world re-enactments. While many might find his performance to be very similar to that of McLovin in Superbad, he proves that he has range and can act unsure of himself just as easily as he can be awkwardly over-confident.  His climactic “battle” sequence is perfectly directed and is the highlight of the film, largely due to his performance.

Bobb’e Thompson, the 12-year-old who plays Ronnie, is equally as entertaining. Whereas most child actors might shy away from being so rambunctious and over-the-top on camera, Thompson has no qualms about going all out. Though at times he comes across as more of a caricature than an actual character, Ronnie’s exaggerated antics could easily have come across as forced or cheesy, but Thompson has the energy to make them work.

The film’s only major problem lies in the first 15 minutes, which rush by so fast one hardly has the time to fully understand the protagonists and why they need to change. Elizabeth Banks provides a welcome presence as Rudd’s ex-girlfriend, but this subplot feels regrettably underdeveloped and cliché.

Beginning aside, once the leads actually do become “role models” and the plot really gets going, the movie finds its footing and stays strong until the very end. With just the right amount of raunch mixed with a good dose of family-friendly morals, Role Models is one of the best comedies in recent memory.