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Non-Review Review: Role Models

There’s nothing really wrong with this movie – per se. At least nothing that isn’t wrong in just about every comedy that’s been released in the past few years. Taken in context, Role Models is a slightly above average slice of amusement. It’s not particularly memorable, but it should bring more than a few smiles to you’re face, provided you’re not expecting anything groundbreaking. It’s a by-the-numbers comedy, the kind of movie which an average movie-goer could tell exactly what’s happening (and what’s going to happen), even with the sound turned off.

Suit up!

The plot is conventional. Two guys fitting comedy archetypes (the one who feels unfulfilled and the one who needs to grow up) get into trouble and find themselves as father-figures to two kids fitting comedy archetypes (the one who is incredibly vulgar – because kids being vulgar is funny – and the one who is nerdy with an embarassing obsession – because nerds are funny). Hilarity ensues at stops-and-starts.

Two things recommend the movie above your standard per formula man-child comedy. The first is the honesty it demonstrates with its central structure. For example, around the half way point, where the two men have managed to engage in a functioning rapport with the kids – but without the necessary sacrifice and hurdles we know must arrive around the two-thirds mark – at least the film doesn’t pretend that they have actually changed (his ex-girlfriend isn’t charmed by his new persona). Of course, we all know that they must eventually overcome these hurdles, but at least it doesn’t attempt to convince us that court-ordered community service will automatically make you a good person.

The other factor which defines the movie is how open-minded and (almost) respectful it is of the nerd culture it parodies. Of course, the role-playing universe that Augie is so fond of is the butt of many of the film’s jokes, but that’s par for the course. Despite all the mocking and the laughs the film takes from it, the movie seems comfortable with the notion that these are mostly decent people. Even the heat of the film’s climactic battle scene, heated opponents – traitors, warriors, Kiss fans – all obey the rules and all join each other for a beer afterwards. Even the chief henchman departs with a smile and a nod (asking for an e-mail address, because they always need new people). There is a fair amount of cheap humour at their expense, but the film treats the subculture relatively fairly – as though asking if dressing up like a knight and waving a plastic sword is any different from pressing in a hockey jersey and playing videogames or obsessing over sports.

These aren’t big things – they are quite small actually – but the movie does most of the little things quite well. I hate Sean William Scott, but he’s fairly decent here. Paul Rudd hasn’t yet found a perfect comedic mould here, but his work in the role suggests he has been ineffectively cast as the perfect man in unfunny films like I Love You, Man. A little bit of dysfunction almost suits him. The two kids are fantastic. Bobb’e J. Thompson is a future Comedy Central star in waiting. Christopher Mintz-Plasse proves he might be more than just McLuvin – it’ll be interesting to see him in Kick Ass next year. Elizabeth Banks is fairly reasonable in a quiet supporting role that is beneath her at this stage in her career. Jane Lynch is the film’s great supporting player – apparently it’s obligatory in these types of films – who manages to make what could easily be incredibly annoying somewhat amusing.

That’s really all there is to it, I’m afraid. It won’t have you rolling on the floor. It’s conventional. It’s not comedy gold – you probably won’t remember it a year from now. But it does what it says on the tin. It is a slave to formula, but it is pleasantly so. There are a few laughs to be had here – if you can go with it.

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