Role Models is a comedy about two loser-slacker- underachievers (they hawk energy drinks at public schools — ’nuff said) who get arrested for crashing a truck and then sentenced to 150 hours of community service. Each of them has to play big brother to a kid with major adjustment problems, and if you hear that and think, ”Isn’t this a remake of some maximally dumb comedy from the 1980s?” you?d be justified. The fun of Role Models is that it’s a high-concept movie executed with speed and finesse and the kind of brusquely tossed-off obscene banter that can get you laughing before you know what hit you. The fish-out-of-water setup may be claptrap, but the movie feels loose, shaggy, and improv-y. Especially after Danny (Paul Rudd), a 35-year-old mope who sounds as if his soul has been burnt to a crisp, and Wheeler (Seann William Scott), a skirt chaser without a single mean bone in his body, arrive at the Sturdy Wings mentorship center and discover that trying to actually, you know, relate to a kid is their own special brand of hell.
Wheeler is assigned to a pint-size pottymouth (Bobb’e J. Thompson) as mentally agile as he is misbehaved, while Danny gets stuck with Augie, a myopic nasal teenage dork who devotes his afternoons to organized medieval role-play. Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays this super-dweeb with such conviction that you’re not sure if you want to laugh at him, give him a pep talk, or slap him silly. The director, David Wain, had devious fun putting bad youth movies through the wringer in Wet Hot American Summer, and here he shows a corkscrew affection for the kind of studio comedy that’s far too by-the-numbers to be mistaken for reality. What makes Role Models a kick is that its heroes act as if they can’t quite believe their predicament is real either. Rudd delivers put-downs like a toxic avenger, while Scott, in his freshest star turn since American Pie, uses his disarming sweetness to make Wheeler the most nuttily likable of sleazebags. They’re matched by Jane Lynch, who plays the Sturdy Wings overseer as an ex-addict who couldn’t be prouder of those addictions; she’s hooked on overdoses of ego. The big medieval battle of the cardboard swords, with our heroes done up like the Knights of a certain rock band, is an event the movie pays tribute to by seeing through every gloriously geeky minute of it. B+