Monday, November 10, 2008

America's Next Top Models

I will open by saying that Role Models is one of the most pleasant surprises I've ever had at the movies. The trailer didn't evoke a single laugh from me and it was only because of some positive reviews that I went to see it at all. It's not a great movie by any measure but it is pretty good and I laughed at most of the jokes which is really all you can ask of a comedy.

Another big surprise was that Judd Apatow had nothing to do with it. It has all the aspects of an Apatow film including many of the regular actors he uses up to and including Paul Rudd who plays one of the two major roles. It also has an Apatow plot (self absorbed and, to varying degrees, hedonistic people eventually come to do the right thing) and yet Apatow's name fails to show up. Perhaps we as a society have evolved into beings that no longer need Judd Apatow in order to make a Judd Apatow movie and now all movies will be like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Judd Apatow's ascension as our God-Emperor may or may not be a good thing but it happened so subtly that I hardly noticed.

As for the plot, it involves idiots doing idiotic things in a funny way. Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott play Danny and Wheeler, partners at a company that sells energy drinks. Their schtick is to go to schools to deliver an anti-drug lecture and, in the process, offer their drink as a drug alternative. Wheeler is an empty-headed doofus who's perfectly content with his life as a guy who dresses up as a minotaur (the drink's mascot) by day and having an endless string of one night stands with hot chicks by night and DAMN why can't I live like that? Danny, on the other hand, seems to have based his life on Woody Allen movies. He's a whiny jerk who takes his dissatisfaction with life out on society. His only pleasure seems to come from lording his perceived intellectual superiority over everyone he meets. When I say "perceived" it's not really too far off. One of the main tenets of the plot is that, while Danny and Wheeler are dumb, everyone else in the film is dumber. The one exception to this is Danny girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks). Because she's the only truly smart person in the film, she comes to the conclusion that she should dump Danny and this is what drives Danny into a tailspin that eventually leads him to drive his company's vehicle, a big SUV made up to look like a minotaur, into the statue at the school where he's was supposed to be giving his anti-drug/buy my stuff speech. This is what gets him into trouble with the law and sets up the movie's main plot point.

To avoid going to jail, Danny and wheeler must join a Big Brother type organization where they act as mentors to lonely kids. Danny gets Augie played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse. He's best known as McLovin but here, in a radical departure from playing a spaz who can't get laid role, stars as a spaz who can't get laid who is also deeply involved in fantasy role playing games. And we ain't talking World of Warcraft, Sunshine. No no, he actually meets in a real place with real people dressed in real costumes who engage in real fake combat for control of the fake realm of Xanthia. Typically, Danny has to act like an A-hole who's too cool for any of this, an attitude which draws the ire of the game's King Argotron because Danny refuses to bow before him. The King eventually throws Augie out of the game after Danny gets into a fight with him.

Wheeler, on the other hand, winds up with Ronnie, a foul mouthed kid who loves games, boobs and pissing off his mentors, pretty much in that order. Wheeler does manage to win Ronnie over due to the fact that he has lots of games and knows a lot about boobs. It's pretty much a perfect match until Wheeler reverts to type and manages to break Ronnie's trust after leaving Ronnie alone to go hook up with some hot chick he just met.

This causes the organization's leader, a former drug addict (the always funny Jane Lynch) who loves to talk about the fact that she's a former drug addict whether the situation calls for it or not, to toss them out of the group and put their community service sentence into jeopardy. If you've ever seen a movie before, you know that Danny and Wheeler manage to fix the situation while also gaining back the respect and affection of their friends and loved ones but I won't tell you how because it's really funny.

I had such a nice time actually enjoying this movie in the same way I once went into this dive of a local diner and ended up having what to this day is the best chicken parmesan I ever had. I had my "Role Models Sucks" review half written before I even set foot in the theater and was mildly annoyed that I had to scrap that and would never be able to use the line, "I'd rather be ass raped by a rabid elephant than have to see Role Models again." Still, seeing a genuinely funny comedy more than made up for it.

1 comment:

Michael Clear said...

The title fit perfectly but I almost didn't use it because I predict I'll be getting Google searches with keywords like "america's next top model nude" or "america's next top model barnyard animals". Still, that's the chance you take.