“Role Models” would not be hitting theaters in its current crude form if not for the success of R-rated comedies including “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Wedding Crashers.” After all, a tale of two misfits forced to serve as Big Brother-style mentors would score big with the PG-13 crowd.
However, director David Wain of “Wet Hot American Summer” and “The Ten” fame works best without ratings restraints. So does his cast, an all-star lineup cobbled together from the comedy group the State and Judd Apatow’s stock company - with “American Pie’s” Steve Stifler hitting cleanup.
“Role Models” teams Paul Rudd (“Knocked Up”) and Seann Wil liam Scott (“American Pie”) as Danny and Wheeler, two buds who pitch a high-energy soft drink to unsuspecting schoolchildren. Danny, a cynic to the core, hates the gig and, in a fit of “take this job and shove it” rage, trashes a local school.
The incident could send them both to jail for 30 days. Instead, they avoid the slammer by joining Sturdy Wings, a mentoring program for isolated children.
Danny is teamed with Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, “Superbad’s” McLovin), a nerd of the highest order who only fits in while playing fantasy games. Wheeler gets to entertain Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson), a tyke with a penchant for mayhem.
They’re all working under the protective wing of the group’s founder, Gayle Sweeny (Jane Lynch). She’s a recovering cocaine addict, and caring is her latest fix. It’s hardly a shock that Miss Lynch delivers most of the film’s funniest lines. (Will somebody please write her a starring role, already?) Elizabeth Banks rounds out the ensemble as Danny’s disgruntled girlfriend, a pat role leagues beneath her abilities.
Mr. Rudd and Mr. Scott are a perfect mismatch of comedic styles, and yet “Role Models” doesn’t play up their differences nearly enough. Previous R-rated comedies have delivered sturdier stories with far fewer contrivances.
Nevertheless, the cast saves the story from melting down time and again. Also, a running gag involving the rock group Kiss provides the perfect amount of inanity. Even the child actors, introduced in clunky fashion, settle in nicely into their roles.
“Role Models” is too sloppy, too unfocused to serve as the template for R-rated comedies, but it brings the laughter as consistently as the best of them.
TITLE: “Role Models”
RATING: R (Adult language, nudity and drug references)
CREDITS: Directed by David Wain. Written by Mr. Wain, Paul Rudd, Ken Marino and Timothy Dowling.
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
WEB SITE: www.rolemodelsmovie.com/
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS