David Wain, the user-friendliest member of manic US comedy troupe The State, took a punt at reinventing the raunchy ’80s teen comedy with 2001’s surreal Wet Hot American Summer, trading all-nude shower scenes for extra-terrestrial telekinesis and penis jokes for… well, he kept the penis jokes.
Although he’s reined himself in for Role Models, fans of juvenile rudery can relax – it’s a carnival of kicks to the balls and four-letter outbursts.
Paul Rudd (who co-wrote with Wain) and Seann William Scott are Danny and Wheeler, two mismatched pitch-men for a chemicalladen energy drink who end up, via a caffeine-fuelled freak-out, facing a spot of jail time.
They wiggle out by volunteering to mentor a couple of misfits: Ronnie (Bobb’e J Thompson) – a breast-obsessed 10-year-old with a filthy mouth – and Augie Farks (Superbad scenestealer Christopher Mintz-Plasse) – a dreamer who spends his time preparing for an upcoming Live-Action Roleplay (LARP) battle.
The set-up is pure buddy-movie convention, but the film zags into an anarchic war of wills between the dumbed-down adults and the wily kids. For most of the film’s running time, Wain refuses to give in to mush or melodrama, preferring to prod hopelessly dysfunctional characters into uneasy duels, just to see who blinks first.
The initial meetings are delicious disasters, taking in stolen cars, wounded feelings and one extremely awkward camping trip. The cast is good enough to make it all seem like snarky improv, especially Paul Rudd as a suit-wearing nihilist who’s so emotionally disengaged from the world around him that he attempts to repair his fractured relationship with his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) by mumbling TV advert soundbites at her.
There are the expected last-minute changes-of-heart, but for the most part, Role Models is positively grinchy – and all the funnier for it.