I have a feeling that this might be the year that Paul Rudd steps into the limelight. He’s already well known in the US, at least in certain circles, but he hasn’t had many leading roles yet (the last one was the dire Over Her Dead Body); he’s more often cast in supporting roles, notably in many Judd Apatow movies. He was the surf instructor in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the unhappy husband (and brother-in-law) in Knocked Up.
Role Models is no classic but it’s better than it should be. Rudd shares top billing with Seann William Scott and significant screen time with two teenagers, Bobb’e J Thompson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin in Superbad). The older men play energy drink reps, Danny (Rudd) and Wheeler (Scott). When Rudd’s character hits 40 he realises he’s in a trough, bitter and disappointed in life. He proposes to his longtime girlfriend (the currently ubiquitous Elizabeth Banks) and she very sensibly gives him his marching papers. Getting high on the acrid green liquid he’s pitching, Danny gets into a losing argument with a tow truck and is hauled in front of a judge for a civil misdemeanor, with Wheeler in the dock beside him. They’re given a choice of jail or community service, specifically, enrolling as big brothers to troubled youths in the Sturdy Wings programme.
It seems like a no-brainer, but then they meet the kids. Ronnie (Thompson) is a ten-year-old with a mouth like Eddie Murphy and an attitude like Mike Tyson. Augie (McLovin) is a tongue-tied loner who goes around in a cloak, wielding a foam broadsword, obsessed with a weekly fantasy role-playing tournament, “Laire”. None of them is really up for a buddy, but for they’re stuck with each other until the time has been served.
If this sounds like standard family-friendly kiddie-tainment, think again. “R”-rated in the United States, Role Models comes from the censor-baiting, sophomoronic end of the comic spectrum. Little Ronnie’s dialogue alone is a stream of sexist slurs and racial epithets. In other words, the movie itself would be a terrible model for any impressionable child.
Still, for unimpressed adults there are compensations. Chief among them: Jane Lynch as the founder and manager of Sturdy Wings, a deliciously sidelong riff on a familiar kind of reformed drug addict, who now proclaims herself “addicted to helping” and who stays on the boys’ case with the disconcertingly earnest insistence that “you can’t BS a bull-shitter.”
The role is scarcely more than a vignette, but Lynch somehow contrives to sneak off with yet another Generation XY male-bonding movie: Wheeler and Ronnie get on the same page when the subject turns to boobies; Danny and Augie win their princesses through old fashioned chivalry.
Further down the cast-list, Ken Jeong comes up with some choice stylings as a haughty role-playing royal. But like it or not I have a feeling the character people are going to be quoting afterwards is young master Thompson’s precociously potty-mouthed bad-ass, who reserves his worst slur for Rudd: “Reindeer Games”. Take that, Ben Affleck!
Clearly, this isn’t going to be the movie that puts Rudd into a class of his own. But it does provide further evidence of his talent for self-deprecating, off-the-cuff humour, and with I Love You, Man, Howl and The Year One all coming later this year (as well as voice duties on the animated Monsters Vs Aliens) he’s definitely some one to look out for.
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