Saturday, January 10, 2009

ROLE MODELS - genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny

ROLE MODELS is funnier than PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (though I laughed my ass off watching that flick). Funnier than TROPIC THUNDER. Way funnier than FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL and KNOCKED UP. It's the kind of movie that has fast-paced verbal wit that is genuinely driven by the situation that the characters are in. It also has beautiful little touches of physical humour. So much so that I can't wait to see it again and catch up on all the little asides that I missed the first time round.

The plot is simple and definitely contrived. Two feckless thirty-somethings screw up at their job (using the guise of anti-drug talks in schools to push energy drinks) and are sentenced to 150 hours community service. They end up mentoring two kids - one a geeky medieval role-playing game fanatic - the other a foul-mouthed kid full of attitude. That's pretty much it! But from this simpled meet-not-so-cute, writers Paul Rudd, David Wain, Ken Marino and Timothy Dowling carve a movie so funny, and in a way, so true-to-life, it's brilliant.

Take Paul Rudd's character Danny. He's painfully recognisable. He's the kind of guy who gets to 35 and realises he has a crap job and no direction and that his being smart hasn't really gotten him anywhere. He acts out by picking people up on things like putting words in quotation marks or using phrases like "asap" or "fyi". But this pernickety superiority merely serves to make him even more angry, and to alienate his long-suffering girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks). I'm guessing that a lot of people are going to relate to his character.

It's Danny who ends up having a mini-breakdown that land him and his friend and co-worker Wheeler (Seann William Scott in the kind of role - cocksure, none too smart side-kick, that he excels at) into community service. Danny and Wheeler - both work the verbal comedy route brilliantly, but they're acted off the screen by Jane Lynch as the creepy ex-crack whore, Gayle, who runs the mentoring programme ("Me and the judge have a special relationship... I don't wanna get too graphic but I sucked his dick for drugs." and Bobb'e J Thompson who plays Wheeler's mentee, Ronnie ("Suck it, "Reindeer Games"!") As the movie progresses, Wheeler and Ronnie form a bond over their common love of boobies.

Danny takes longer to bond with his geeky mentee Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) but in the end the feel-good factor and character development comes from this storyline. Danny learns to actually be positive and try something that seems weird, joining Augie in his medieval role-playing games. Danny defends Augie's weirdness to his truly awful parents, and in the process ires the RPG King Argotron (Ken Jeong) who banishes Augie. (In fact, you could make a case for Ken Jeong as the best actor in the movie with his subtle physical ticks - watch him finger Paul Rudd's face as Danny kisses King Argotron's hand. Pure Comedy Gold!) The final scenes centre heavily on how far Danny and Wheeler come to accept their responsibility as mentors, and how far they'll go to stand by their kids.

What more can I say? ROLE MODELS may sound contrived but it contains grains of human truth. Better still, it contains the funniest lines and delivery since PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. I can't wait to watch it again!

ROLE MODELS is on release in the US, Australia and the UK. It opens on January 1th in Croatia; on January 23rd in Iceland and Norway; in Spain on January 30th; in France on February 4th; in Estonia on February 6th; in Germany on February 26th; in the Netherlands on March 12th; in Finland and Sweden on March 20th; in Brazil on March 27th and in Italy on May 22nd.

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