Role Models opens with a comic set piece in which Stifler from American Pie forces Paul Rudd to smell his index and middle fingers, while alluding to having recently engaged in sexual activity with the hot, subservient babe from whose classic sports car he has just dismounted. With expert timing, and displaying a cat-like agility, Rudd recoils, exclaiming the immortal line “Dude!” His intonation is wonderful and the scene is played out to utter perfection. From Stifler’s bold, almost punk, gesture to the measured ambiguity of Rudd’s response, audiences are swept up in a vital and inventive celebration of cinematic possibility.
The film revolves around the characters Danny (Rudd) and Wheeler (Stifler). Danny’s girlfriend, with whom he has been living in sin for years, has just broken up with him for being too cynical and this causes him to go temporarily berserk. He commits a parking offence and the best friends are sentenced to community service. Danny’s ex-girlfriend is a lawyer and provides our heroes with legal representation. Having been assigned places in a ‘Big Brother’ programme, Wheeler and Danny must learn to curb their selfish tendencies so that they may avoid jail, and so that the latter can win back his gal.
With a plot straight from an Adam Sandler movie, Role Models never promised much and, sure enough, director David Wain’s latest effort does little to abate mainstream feature length comedy’s inclination towards crass, unimaginative dispensability.
Though terrible production line comedies have been churned out throughout every era of film, it is a sad state of affairs that Judd Apatow is currently seen as one of the noughties’ most credible comedic forces, and that the likes of Wain are willing to ostensibly rip him off. Even the inclusion of Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse in a one-dimensional supporting role is seen as some kind of casting coup.
The frustrating thing about Role Models is that it is by no means bad. It’s inconsistently well written and even boasts a ‘classic’ character in Jane Lynch’s depiction of Gayle Sweeney, the strung-out head of the Big Brother scheme. Rudd and Wain are clearly capable of writing clever and inventive material, they’re just too content to rely on a tried and tested framework of tiresome knob jokes, sub-Justin Lee Collins pop culture references and predictable, schmaltzy plotlines.