DVD Review: Role Models (2008) -- Unrated/Rated Version

Refusing to Act its Age
& Leading by Hilariously Bad Example
On DVD, Blu-ray, & Video On Demand

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You wouldn't expect a guy who drives around a Minotaur-Mobile to local schools each and every day to peddle his company's sport drinks as the ultimate replacement for drugs to be a pretentious and snobbish misanthrope. But then again, you haven't met Role Models' Danny as played by Paul Rudd.

Rudd-- who just keeps getting funnier with each and every performance finally gets to be a true leading man in both this film and the upcoming I Love You, Man (opposite his Forgetting Sarah Marshall costar Jason Segel). And in this one, he is terrific as the smug, self-loathing employee who freaks out in a gourmet coffee shop, is dumped by his long-time girlfriend later on, and takes his frustrations out by driving the aforementioned Minotaur-Mobile straight into school property.

Since his more carefree coworker, Wheeler (Seann William Scott) was with him during his meltdown, both men quickly learn from their lawyer and Danny's ex Beth (Elizabeth Banks) that they will either have to face prison time or 150 hours of community service with the judge's favorite charity, Sturdy Wings.

A warped version of the highly respected Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization-- Sturdy Wings is run by its twisted founder and former addict and hooker, Sweeny (Jane Lynch). Lynch, who steals the entire film in a role that the Universal production notes reveals was written expressly for her, constantly reminds the men that she'll be watching them ever so carefully as they're forced into mentoring two kids who have yet to have struck a chord with any of the other volunteers (either forced or free).

Rudd's Danny is saddled with the incredibly imaginative and friendless sixteen year old Augie (Superbad's Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who creates Highlander meets Lord of the Rings styled choreography in his Dungeons and Dragons world. Compulsively clad in a cape and wielding a fake sword-- with a penchant to speak in old English especially as he drags Danny to intricate meidival role playing battles-- it's safe to say that Augie and Danny have a hard time forming a bond but their relationship is far less volatile than the one facing Wheeler.

He's assigned to be the "Big" to a fifth grade "Little" named Ronnie (hilarious newcomer Bobb'e J. Thompson) who trades f-bombs and abuse allegations as some kids do baseball cards right off the bat. Ronnie visibly steals focus from everyone else in a given scene in one of the most politically incorrect yet consistently funny running gags throughout the film as you simply have no idea what he's going to say next. A mini Richard Pryor-- Ronnie dominates Wheeler for awhile and at first, I found myself wondering if Role Models was just going to become a strange us vs. them (or "Bigs" verses "Littles") battle or traditional buddy comedy.

However, instead director David Wain's Role Models is surprisingly smart and fresh as it grows into a great outsiders coming together tale as we realize that much like their assigned "Littles," the "Bigs" who were always more co-workers than friends, could also benefit from the relationship as the overgrown adolescents and real adolescents begin to evolve.

Although it definitely has the juvenile humor down pat-- admirably, Role Models doesn't attempt for the same level of maximum gross out humor that some of its contemporary '08 R-rated comedies did including the Oscar nominated Tropic Thunder, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly's comedy Step Brothers, and Seth Rogen and James Franco's Golden Globe nominated joint, Pineapple Express.

While certainly, Role Models is anything but sophisticated as Lynch joked in the press release, "Don't expect big words. Don't expect highfalutin concepts. Don't expect the characters to do the right thing. Just sit back, relax, and have a good time," honestly-- although the final medieval battle where everyone comes together was a bit overblown and cliched-- there's a heart hidden beneath the foul jokes. And admirably, it manages to include us in the situational humor more often than not instead of simply just pushing crude sight gags upon us ad nauseum. Of course, it does go for laughs any way it can and we're not exactly dealing with Woody Allen sophistication especially considering the DVD and Blu-ray's inclusion of "Inappropriate Bonus Features" (that really weren't all that inappropriate).

Moreover, the disc gives you the opportunity to watch either the theatrical and/or unrated version of the film for maximum f-bombs but intriguingly the extra features were virtually laugh free compared to the movie that had me quickly in hysterics to the point that I had to rewind most scenes in which Lynch appears.

In fact, in one of the only genuinely funny bloopers, it's Lynch herself who acknowledges the film's funniest MVP in the young Thompson who manages to shock the Christopher Guest pro to the point where she says, "God, you say too much for a young person!"

The on-set featurette celebrates the cast's ability to improvise as they were always rewriting and changing scenes for the maximum humorous effect sometimes right before they shot footage as Rudd notes he actually inserted his own pet-peeves (involving "pointless phrases") right into the script.

In a truly worthwhile highlight called "In Character & Off Script," The State comedy troupe funnyman David Wain and those he knows well (and invovles in his projects continuously) are given a chance to shine as the film's under-written supporting characters ad-lib backstories for their personalities. And some of these are so inventive, you wish more of them would've made their way into the film in place of it's one major drawback in a slightly long and drawn-out predictable "battle."

However, that one tiny flaw aside-- Role Models is one of the funniest comedies of '08 and for my money, one that surpassed Rudd's early '08 Apatow produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall. While it's too early to guess if his next work I Love You, Man will continue the success of this string of popular R-rated adult male coming-of-age movies-- Role Models stands out as a movie that really gets it right that you can now catch for yourself on Blu-ray, DVD or On Demand.