For the second time in recent history, I left an R-rated comedy feeling really happy. First Kevin Smith's crass, dirty film about low-budget porn turns out to be rather sweet, and now Role Models. Though full of crude language and nasty jokes, the movie is really a twisted sort of coming-of-age story — for the adult characters more than the kids — that's ultimately heartwarming.
Danny (Paul Rudd) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott) are two energy drink reps who have been with the company for several years now. Danny has grown frustrated with what he sees as a dead-end career, while Wheeler is something of a frat-boyish slacker who rather enjoys his low-commitment lifestyle. One day, however, Danny's aggravation overwhelms him and he and Wheeler end up getting in trouble with the law. They choose to put in 150 hours of service at a mentoring program rather than go to jail, and they meet their charges: Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson). For more of the story and my thoughts on it all,
Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott make a great, well-cast team, but my favorite actor in the whole thing is Jane Lynch, who plays the ex-convict director of the mentoring program. She keeps a watchful (if not slightly twitchy) eye on the two men as they attempt to bond with Augie and Ronnie. These relationships are rocky at first (since the big joke here is that these two schlubs are allowed to be role models at all), but in the end, everyone learns a little something about himself.
I have paid attention to director David Wain's career ever since he was a member of MTV's awesome/bizarre sketch show The State, and though I love Wain's Wet Hot American Summer, I understand that it's something of an acquired taste. When his movie The Ten came out last year, though, I was disappointed. Now it seems Wain has struck a good balance: Taking a simple story (two guys who join a mentoring program and struggle to connect with their charges) and infusing it with his weird, sometimes awkward, sometimes crass sense of humor. This way, we're not overloading on the cheesy, mundane stuff of the ordinary mainstream comedy, but it's also not just one long string of bizarre jokes.
The message (if one is wont to look for such things), too, is particularly accessible to the 20- and 30-somethings of America. Danny experiences a specific kind of ennui, a sense of despair at not knowing what makes life meaningful. This idea that the key to happiness is community and helping others can been found in countless movies, but here it's coming all wrapped up in sarcasm and sex jokes and the cute, droll Paul Rudd. But then, of course, as soon as we realize that there might be a goopy central theme to all this, someone punches someone else in the crotch and we're back to just having a good time. It's both funny and satisfying.
Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures