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Role Models (2008)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/10/2009

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/7/2009

I don't think that I'm alone in this one -- When I saw the trailer for Role Models, my immediate reaction was, "What? Another Judd Apatow movie?" In my reviews for movies such as Superbad and Pineapple Express, I've written about how I don't understand why critics and audiences simply love these movies. Checking into Role Models, I was shocked to learn that Apatow wasn't involved, but instead it came from former members of The State. Given that their last project The Ten wasn't very good, I wasn't very enthused about the movie. Speaking of last projects which weren't very good, with Balls Out it appeared that star Seann William Scott's career was going away. Maybe it was these lowered expectations which didn't prepare me for the hilarity of Role Models.

Role Models introduces us to Danny (Paul Rudd) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott), pitchmen for Minotaur Energy Drink. They go from school-to-school, with Wheeler dressed as a minotaur, attempts to convince children to avoid drugs and drink their beverage instead. While Wheeler loves the lack of responsibility in their job, Danny hates it, and when it dawns on him that he's been with the company for 10 years, he goes into a funk. Determined to change things in his life, he asks his girlfriend, Beth (Elizabeth Banks), to marry him, but she declines, stating that she doesn't like the person that he's become. Despondent, Danny returns to work the next day, and in a fit of anger, crashes the Minotaur monster truck. Danny and Wheeler (who was charged as an accessory) are told that they can avoid jail time by doing 30 hours of community service with Sturdy Wings, a "Big Brother"-type agency. They agree and after a bizarre orientation with director Gayle (Jane Lynch), the two meet their "Littles". Danny is paired with Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), an awkward teenager who is obsessed with live action role playing games. Danny accompanies Augie to one of these role-playing battles and doesn't know what to make of these people who pretend that they are in a medieval war. Meanwhile, Wheeler gets Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson), a foul-mouthed 10-year old, who respects no one and love to hit people. While Danny and Wheeler know nothing about bonding with children, they attempt to interact with these challenging cases, and soon learn that nothing is what it seems to be.

As far as the God-awful Balls Out and the lackluster The Ten are concerned, all is forgiven, as Role Models is a great comedy. The movie's story is an odd mixture of old and new. The idea of taking grown men out of their comfort zone and placing them with children is not a new one. Although this plot device is often used in dramas, we've seen it in comedies before. And the idea of someone attempting to controlled a foul-mouthed child like Ronnie isn't all that original either. (Although, I must admit that I've never seen a movie where someone tries to indoctrinate said child into the world of Kiss.) It's the inclusion of the live action role playing which gives Role Models a touch of novelty. A surprising amount of the film is set in Augie's play world, and eventually every character in the movie will be indoctrinated to it. And while the movie certainly makes fun of this sub-culture, it does it with a surprising amount of respect.

While the story has some nice touches (I especially liked the whole Minotaur thing), it's the actors who really sell the movie. I mentioned my ambivalence toward Judd Apatow's films earlier, but the bright spot in movies like The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up was Paul Rudd. He has solidified himself as an actor who can be both energetic and apathetic at the same time, and he really nails it in Role Models. Danny is someone who isn't the "sad sack" type, but he never seems happy and judge everything around him. Simply using his face and his condescending tone, Rudd reduces everyone around him to ashes and the audience to tears. (I had to pause the movie after his line about Quidditch because I was laughing so hard.) On the flipside, Seann William Scott has cornered the market on playing guys who are cocky, shallow, and not very bright. Wheeler is a horny man-child who loves his stupid job, and Scott is perfect for this role. He is a master of looking confused and offended at the same time -- simply watch the scene where he first meets Ronnie and is flummoxed by the child's profanity-laden tirade. Much of Role Models was improvised and improv master Jane Lynch steals her scenes as a "tough" woman who gets so involved with her lingo that no one knows what she's saying.

While Role Models looks like another raunchy comedy on the surface, it's got more than that going for it. As with my recent favorite The Rocker and the neo-classic Old School, the movie takes a modern look at men in their 30s who have no idea what they are doing with their lives. And, as is to be expected, the movie has a soft-spot for the kids...although, not as soft as you may think. However you frame it, Role Models is a very funny movie which contains at least four great lines which I would love to have on a t-shirt.

Role Models would rather go to prison on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. There is no overt noise on the image. The level of detail is good, and skintones remain realistic-looking. The image has a nice depth, especially in the battle sequences. The colors are very good and the image is never too dark or bright. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a dialogue-driven comedy, don't expect the usual life-changing audio that we've gotten from Universal, but it certainly suits the film. The stereo effects are good, as they are nicely detailed and show excellent separation. The surround sound during the battle scenes is notably impressive, and we feel immersed in the action. There are only a few moments where the subwoofer is allowed to shine.

The Role Models Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director/Co-writer David Wain. The Disc contains 42 (!) DELETED SCENES AND ALTERNATE TAKES which run about 50 minutes. There is an interesting sub-plot included which was cut from the film in which Wheeler gets a new job. There are also several funny moments, including a longer cut of Danny's dinner with Augie's mom and step-dad. We get a 4-minute reel of BLOOPERS. There's something funny about watching funny people laugh. "On the Set of Role Models" (8 minutes) contains comments from the cast and filmmakers. The great thing about this piece is that everyone is being very loose and candid, and while we are learning about the movie, there are some funny moments here. "Game On: Creating a Role Playing World" (10 minutes) is one of the better extras, as it actually answers a question that most any viewer will have, "Is this real?" Here, we learn a bit about the reality and complexity of live action role playing. "In-Character & Off-Script" (8 minutes) contains three segments where Martin Gary (A.D. Miles), Kuzzik (Joe Lo Truglio), and Davith (Matt Walsh) all remain in-character while describing their lives and their characters. "Ye Old Crest Maker" is an interactive feature where the viewer can make their own family crest. With the "U-Control" feature, the viewer can access Picture-in-Picture segments which contain interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long