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Laughs come at high cost in ‘Role Models’



Published: Thu, November 6, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Rick Bentley

Like some cinematic version of Siamese twins, “Role Models” is made up of two distinct halves. One is a light comedy that generates laughs despite mining familiar territory. The other is an offensive, lame and painful attempt at humor.

Paul Rudd, the film world’s version of sand in a bathing suit, and Seann William Scott, cinema’s answer to Urkel, play Danny and Wheeler, co-workers who end up in legal trouble. Lucky for Danny his girlfriend, Beth (played by the underappreciated Elizabeth Banks), is a lawyer. She convinces the courts to allow the guys to do 150 hours of community service instead of 30 days in jail.

Their decision to go with the community service makes jail look like a vacation. The pair becomes part of a mentoring program run by Gayle Sweeny (Jane Lynch), a woman who at one time never met a substance she couldn’t abuse.

The guys are paired with two of the program’s toughest subjects. And this is where the film goes in opposite directions.

Danny must deal with Augie Farks (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) the poster boy for nerds. As Mintz-Plasse showed in “Superbad,” he has a great talent for playing socially inept characters. He’s good enough to make even the normally annoying Rudd come across as funny.

It’s barely enough to distract from the other storyline. Wheeler’s kid is Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson), the biggest stereotype to come along in films in years. He’s a 12-year-old black kid with anger issues. His single mother just can’t control him.

If the intent of director David Wain was to have the audience sympathize with this character, he has failed spectacularly. It is difficult to care about a young character who uses profanity the way most people use adjectives, discusses sex with every breath and finds great humor in slapping an adult in the face.


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