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Review: Cast brings 'Role Models' home

  • Story Highlights
  • "Role Models" works because of very funny cast
  • Film concerns two men who have to work with at-risk kids
  • Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Jane Lynch rise above formula
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By Tom Charity
Special to CNN
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(CNN) -- It's probably fair to say that no one goes to a Seann William Scott movie in anticipation of anything more than a few laughs and a quick exit. And on that score, "Role Models" doesn't disappoint.

In "Role Models," two men become big brothers to two troubled children.

A few of us, however, cling to higher hopes from Paul Rudd and his "Wet Hot American Summer" director David Wain -- at least, to add a smidge of irony to the comedy. As far as that goes this is more of a mixed bag, but you take your pleasures where you can find them.

An off-the-rack buddy movie, refitted for the current craze for "men-will-be-bros" hijinks, Wain's comedy has the kind of scenario you could scribble in crayon on the back of a napkin -- and frankly, it wouldn't be a surprise if that's exactly how it came to pass, even if took half a dozen credited writers to accomplish the task.

Enervated energy drink pitchmen Danny (Rudd) and Wheeler (Scott) get on the wrong side of the law and are faced with a choice of 30 days in jail or 150 hours of community service with the "Sturdy Wings" big brother agency. Neither is exactly role model material -- Wheeler is a party animal obsessed with the ladies, while Danny is careering head on into full-blown depression after getting his marching orders from long-term girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks, making minimal impression in a thankless role, albeit her third release in three weeks).

Jail doesn't seem out of the question when these "Bigs" -- in Sturdy Wings' terminology -- meet their "littles": Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson) is a 10-year-old with a mouth like Eddie Murphy and an attitude like Mike Tyson. Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse -- McLovin from "Superbad") is a tongue-tied loner who goes around in a cloak, carrying a foam broadsword, and who lives for a weekly fantasy role-playing tournament.

By now you may be thinking the prospect of hard time in the slammer sounds more enjoyable than 90 minutes watching "Role Models." And if we're talking about one of those minimum-security facilities reserved for Wall Street embezzlers, that's likely true.

But there are compensations, and chief among them is the hilarious Jane Lynch -- who brightened "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" as the store manager and any number of Christopher Guest films -- as the founder and manager of Sturdy Wings. Her character is a deliciously sidelong riff on a familiar kind of reformed drug addict, who now proclaims herself "addicted to helping" and who stays on the boys' case with the disconcertingly earnest insistence that "you can't BS a bull-sh***er."

The role is scarcely more than a vignette, but Lynch somehow contrives to sneak off with yet another Generation XY male-bonding movie. Other material is familiar: Wheeler and Ronnie get on the same page when the subject turns to breasts; Danny and Augie win their princesses through old-fashioned chivalry.

Rudd and Scott aren't stretching any new muscles, but Rudd's glum disaffection and Scott's bozo bonhomie do gel with a satisfying stickiness. They handle the gaping innuendo with such delicacy we know that they know they're better than this.

Further down the cast list, Ken Jeong comes up with some choice stylings as a haughty role-playing royal. But like it or not, I have a feeling the character people are going to be quoting afterwards is young master Thompson's precociously potty-mouthed badass, who reserves his worst slur for Rudd: "Reindeer Games." Take that, Ben Affleck!

This unremittingly juvenile comedy routine may be getting a little old, but unlike a 'tweener like "Drillbit Taylor," at least "Role Models" has the decency to earn its R rating. And, truth be told, its cast wrings more juice out of the script than it deserves. If only that were a model for other movies of its type.

"Role Models" is rated R and runs 99 minutes. For Entertainment Weekly's take, click here.

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