Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ROLE MODELS: Mostly For Cosplay Fans

ROLE MODELS (comedy)
Seann William Scott & Paul Rudd (pictured), Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb'e J. Thompson, Elizabeth Banks, Jane Lynch (98 mins) Director: David Wain
Time: 95 mins
Ratimng: * * (out of 4)

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? For most of us, Role Models will just be another American comedy more suited to Western tastes than local. It is rather derivative and not funny enough. However, it may end up as the popular DVD movie for 'cosplay' (costume-play) and live-action role playing fans here in Malaysia.

Danny (Paul Rudd) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott) are two salesmen who go from school to school selling a brand of energy drink (inspired by Red Bull) to kids as substitute for illegal drugs. Wheeler loves his job but Danny thinks that he is stuck in a rut and he takes his frustrations out on almost everyone.

When a problem
with his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) pushes Danny to breaking point, the two men land in trouble with the law. To avoid going to jail, they have to join a programme called 'Sturdy Wings' where they play big brother to lonely kids. Wheeler is assigned a foul-mouthed pre-teen named Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson, pic, right), while Danny gets Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse of Superbad), a teenage nerd who is obsessed with medieval fantasy role-playing.

HITS & MISSES: Directed and co-written by relative newcomer David Wain, Role Models is a predictable buddy caper with a message about the importance of unconditional love. The pairings do not start well and their ensuing 'sputters' provide some crazy situations especially between the sex-crazed Wheeler and vile-tempered Ronnie.

Soon, the comedy strays into drama and even documentary (the live-action role-playing) territory and the laughs peter out. Wain and his co-scripters (Rudd, Ken Marino, Tim Dowling, W. Blake Herron) have not bothered to develop Danny and Wheeler's roles further other than to portray them as 'big brothers'. It is as if they have no life other than doing the role model thing!

Role Models reminds us of Judd Apatow's comedies (like Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin). Indeed, it is written by Apatow's usual gang of collaborators but here he is conspicuously missing. Role Models has none of the subplot adornments (or 'bling-bling') that lend colour and sparkle to Apatow's efforts. Its ending, especially, looks shoddily contrived and phoney.

The cast, however, are strong. Rudd and Scott pair off well as 'opposites'; Elizabeth Banks is credible as successful lawyer Beth who is tired of Danny's grouchiness; and the kids, Thompson and Mintz-Plasse, make a good account of themselves. However, the one performance that stands out is from Jane Lynch whose zany portrayal of Gayle Sweeny, the Sturdy Wings community service boss, is demented enough to evoke plenty of chuckles.

Role Models is forgettable, uninspired and bland.


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