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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Role Models

There’s nothing I like better than a story that shows how little esteem Hollywood executives hold for the American movie-going public. Not that they should, mind you, considering the crap that crowds flock to when given the chance to choose between something of quality and something that has:

a) robots from outer space
b) guns, guns, and more guns
c) lots of explosions
d) fast cars

e) hot dumb chicks
f) horny teenagers
g) torture porn
h) all of the above (or any of the above in configuration).


The point is that co-author and actor Timothy Dowling (Thank You for Smoking) allegedly wanted to call his tale Mentors, but studio suits insisted on the name change to Role Models because they didn’t believe the “great unwashed” out in the Midwestern Red States would have a clue what the movie was about. They feared the folks in Dumbpunkin, Nebraska would think “Mentors is a movie about that breath mint you see advertised on the tee vee, which I reckon I don’t need seein’ as I don’t have no teeth so I can’t get nothing caught in my mouth to cause no bad breath and besides, I ain’t got nobody to breathe on anyway besides Sue Ellen, my pig.” That’s the way Hollywood moguls think everyone outside of California and New York speak, except in the rarified air of ski resorts and cities that support theatrical try-outs of Broadway-bound productions, places like Boston, Seattle, and Washington DC.

Granted, the fight for Mentors was lost early on, and so Dowling and co-writers W. Blake Herron (
Ripley Under Ground), David Wain (The Ten), Ken Marino (also The Ten), and the movie’s co-star and co-writer Paul Rudd (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) sucked it up and went with the less interesting title of Role Models, which is hardly fitting because the two stooges at the center of this story are anything but Role Models.

I know, I know. Many of you are asking “But wait, wait, Miss Clammy! How can there be a movie called ‘
Role Models’ that is not about vous?” and I will tell you that it is a question that preys on my mind as well, though considering the lowbrow nature of this particular comedic effort I say “Tout aussi bien!” Just as well. That is not to say I am not above enjoying this cinematic treasure, but I will wait for someone more suitable than Paul Rudd or Sean William Scott to pay homage to moi. Besides, I am trés less hairy than either one. Usually.

So, speaking of Sean William Scott (Balls Out: The Gary Houseman Story), he plays goofus
Anson Wheeler, a likeable enough loser whose biggest ambition in life is to see what woman’s panties he can get into before the end of each day. As the costumed mascot for an energy drink company that pushes its product on school kids as an alternative to drugs, all he has to do is stand around all day in a Minotaur suit and growl while his deadpan partner Danny Donahue (the aforementioned Rudd) rattles off his memorized speech over and over from school to school to school. Their lives could not be more out of synch. Wheeler is overjoyed with his job and looks at his ten years of service as just the beginning of a lifetime career as the Minotaur while Danny hates every tick of the clock and wants nothing more than to quit this nightmare, marry his long-time live-in girlfriend, Beth (Elizabeth Banks; Zack and Miri Make a Porno), and start over in another profession.

When things hit the skids ~ Beth turns down his impromptu mid-day proposal ~ Danny goes meshugass and both guys end up in deep caca with the law. Their only alternative to jail time is a month of community service as mentors to a couple of “difficult to place” boys through a community
organization run by the scariest “loving and caring nurturer” this side of my Aunt Ophelia, the one convicted of 112 counts of child abuse. The always deliciously over-the-top Jane Lynch (The Rocker, and just about every Christopher Guest mockumentary) plays Gayle Sweeny as a bit-too-tightly wound reformed drug addict and alcoholic who created her program, “Sturdy Wings”, to avoid going to prison herself. In doing so, she has become a kind of shrill Gestapo officer with her volunteer mentors, and especially with her court-ordered volunteers ~ in this case Danny and Wheeler.

The guys are assigned probably the most difficult boys available: Wheeler has to work with Ronnie Shields (Bobb'e J. Thompson; Columbus Day), a
foul-mouthed ten-year-old with a chip on his shoulder the size of a tree, and Danny is given the task of trying to bring teenager Augie Farks (Christopher Mintz-Plasse; Superbad) back from his 24/7 fantasy world of playing in a medieval game both on- and off-line. Just getting him to take off his cape is going to be a gigantic challenge.

Sure, you can see going in to this that before the next hour or so goes by that Wheeler and Danny are going to turn Ronnie and Augie around while having significant moments of their own which will result in Wheeler growing up a lot and Danny loosening up a little, but the fun is not in the lessons being learned but in the journey along the way. There are a lot of laughs to be had in watching a little kid drop the “F-bomb” every two or three lines, especially when he’s doing it in public and freaking out everybody around him, but even that gets old, so director David Wain (the co-scriptwriter) is blessed with his “B” story and the presence of super-talented Christopher Mintz-Plasse, best known to the public by his now famous moniker McLovin’. He brings poignancy to the character of Augie that is undoubtedly not on the written page, and it gives the movie more heart and depth than it would have otherwise, saving it from being just another slapstick piece of forgettable crap we usually see at the end of summer.

Role Models is not going to win any Oscars, but it is a solid adult comedy. I think the key word here is adult. Just because it has some kids on the poster and in the trailer don’t let that fool you. This isn’t the kind of film you want to just drop the little nippers off at the door and then let them run in unattended unless you don’t care if they emerge with a whole new vocabulary, but, then again, what the f***, if you care that little about what your kids see, then you f***ing deserve what you get. Now, for grown-ups, it’s a hoot. Kids, they’d love it, but still, they need to go see something a little less raw.

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