Last year, the patrons of the US box office in their wisdom chose to lift Adam Sandler’s risible You Don’t Mess With The Zohan (and I can say that as a Sandler fan) to the star’s usual $100m gross. Meanwhile, Role Models – a comedy dismissed among some I spoke to as “just another American Pie or Judd Apatow movie”) – petered out at under $70m – still a fine take, to be fair – leaving one of the finest US comedies of the last year or two firmly under many people’s radar.
And there are a number of reasons why it deserves a far wider audience on DVD.
Firstly, there’s Paul Rudd. Proving beyond doubt that he’s been long overdue a good, solid leading role, he’s golden here, as Danny, who in cahoots with Seann William Scott’s Wheeler finds himself sentenced to 150 hours of community service. That brings him to the door of the Sturdy Wings organisation, that places the pair as mentors to a pair of youngsters. Firstly, there’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s live action role-player Augie. And then, enter stage left, Bobb’e J Thompson as the foul-mouthed ten year old, Ronnie.
The last time I laughed like a drain at the comedy performance of a child actor was watching Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams chewing up the scenery in Addams Family Values. Thompson is, bluntly, a whirlwind in every scene he’s in, and you yearn for more of him. He’s very rude, and very, very funny, and is worth at least renting the film for alone. “Pick us up in two hours,” asks Rudd’s Danny. “Fuck you, Miss Daisy,” Thompson slams back with the delivery and vitriol of a seasoned pro. He will, if you’re in the right frame of mind, bring tears to your eyes.
But then there’s more. Not only do you have the aforementioned Paul Rudd, as well as Seann William Scott’s tempered evolution of American Pie‘s Stifler, but there’s also a nice collection of supporting turns. Mintz-Plasse doesn’t hit Superbad‘s McLovin’s standards here, but he’s still in good form. Ken Jeong as King Argotron is just sublime, and while Jane Lynch slightly overeggs her turn as Sturdy Wings chief Gayle, she still wrings a solid number of laughs.
Behind the camera, director David Wain has Wainy Days on his CV already, but for a mainstream Hollywood comedy movie debut, Role Models enhances his reputation still further. He’s not afraid for his film to have some edge to it, and he’s clearly a strong director of comedy. Whatever he does next, I’m watching it.
Role Models isn’t perfect, mind. Rudd’s relationship with the perfectly fine Elizabeth Banks is a little too by-the-numbers, and the film does feel just a teensy-weensy bit too long. Plus the humour’s not going to be everyone’s bag. Personally though, I laughed like a drain, and went straight back to the beginning once the credits had rolled. And heck, it’s worth making a sequel just to get Thompson back onto the screen in double quick time.
It’s also approximately three trillion times better than You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. Sorry, Adam.
The Disc In terms of presentation, while a comedy is hardly the kind of film that most demands high definition love, Role Models is a decent, if hardly spectacular piece of work. Both video and audio are middle of the road, and entirely sufficient for the film they’re presenting.
The extras fare much better though, kicking off with a solid commentary from director David Wain. But it’s not there where your attention should be focussed. Instead, the masses of deleted scenes prove to be as much as a treasure trove in some cases as the main film itself. The brief blooper reel is forgettable, meanwhile, and then there’s some standard featurette material to bulk the package out. About the best is the picture in picture feature, that throws up a few extra titbits along the way.
It’s not a bad collection, to be fair, and tied to arguably the best comedy of 2008, it makes for a satisfying all-round package.
And Mr Thompson? You’re a comedy genius in the making…
The Film:The Disc: