Role Models: Unrated (US - BD)
Gabe goes in for some slightly above average cursing kid shenanigans...
Danny (Paul Rudd) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott) make a living going from high school to high school, speaking inspirationally against drugs, and selling Minotaur Energy Drink. The two men are complete opposites though; Danny is a bitter and bored man approaching middle age, and Wheeler is a fun-loving party boy. When Danny’s girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks) breaks up with him for his negative behaviour, Danny goes on a brief and destructive rampage, Wheeler in tow. Now the guys find themselves between a rock and a hard place. The rock is thirty days in prison, the hard place is one hundred and fifty hours of community service with Sturdy Wings, a Big Brothers like organization that sets up troubled boys with adult role models.
It’s clear that we’re in the midst of a new generation and brand of film comedy these days, fed by the R rated comedy classics of the 1980s, and led by performers, writers and directors like Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd, and many, many others. Over the last four years we’ve enjoyed the adventures of The 40 Year Old Virgin, and had our high school dramas redefined by Superbad, and even people that normally don’t embrace Hollywood comedy (like myself) have found themselves snickering at inappropriate situations. The fart joke was finally wrapped up in a smart enough bow to appeal to the snobs. I’m very happy that the people seem to have lost interest in easy jokes without a plot, but I’m also getting a little bored with the Apatow/Rogen formula. Technically Apatow and Rogen had nothing to do with Role Models, but there are plenty of similarities in joke and story structure, not to mention actors and visual style.
Role Models mostly works because of a string of strong and charming performances. Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott are both actors that can pull a good performance out of even the dullest script (even if they pretty much play the exact same characters in every film), and their kid co-stars Bobb'e J. Thompson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are cute and sweet enough to hold their own. The plot developments probably won’t surprise anyone that’s seen any three act comedies in their lifetime, but the minor conflicts and dramas are touching because of the well built characters, structured around solid performances.
The comedy is a little too simple, and a little too dependent on the audience being shocked by children cursing at adults, and adults cursing back at children. The comfortable vulgarity is charming, but it’s not really very funny. That’s kind of the theme of all the film’s humour—charming, but not hilarious. Besides the vulgarity among minors gags, the jokes are divided among those at the expense of the geeky SCA and LARP types, and those at the expense of motivational speaker types. The last act SCA/LARP battle is a rousing climax for the film, but the real thing, as seen in Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel’s Darkon, or likely your local park (weather permitting), is just as funny, perhaps funnier. Sadly, the movie’s best jokes have mostly been relegated to the original trailer.
Like I said earlier, these newer adult-oriented comedies seem to have a preset style, which includes the look. Role Models cinematographer Russ T. Alsobrook comes from TV, specifically Apatow and company’s Freaks and Geeks, and his recent credits include Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. His films, like those others, are characterized by soft, pastel colours, and bright but defused lighting. Details aren’t particularly impressive beyond what normally accompanies 1080p transfers, and there are some slight inconsistencies throughout. The standard comedy colours are all bright and soft, and are mostly very well separated, as are hard contrast elements. There is some slight noise and miscolouration in the less vibrant hues (like skin tones), but nothing too rough, or reminiscent of standard definition releases.
This particular DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track isn’t particularly aggressive. Those listening closely will notice a few state of the art touches, like bass infused giant truck engines, chirping birds and laughing children in the rear and stereo channels, and the sounds of artificial battle surrounding the entire climax. Major dialogue is always centred, even if the character speaking it isn’t. Most of the track is about the music, which falls into four categories—whimsical, dramatic, mock heroic (for the LARP scenes), and pop library music. The music is every bit as loud as action movie music, though the rear channels are mostly left out of the equation.
The R rated cut of the film features an audio commentary with director/co-writer David Wain. Wain’s a pretty easy going, occasionally kind of boring commentator, but he’s got some amusing things to say, not to mention a few interesting facts about the long gestating film, which started its life as a straight forward drama. Fans of Adult Swim’s newish series Superjail may recognize Wain as the voice of the warden, while others may remember him as the director and co-writer of the cult favourite Wet Hot American Summer, which contrary to my statements concerning Apatow and Rogen’s control over recent comedy, predates The 40 Year Old Virgin.
There are a total of forty two deleted scenes, extended scenes, and alternate takes, thankfully featuring a ‘play all’ option. In all, these run about fifty minutes. A lot of these, assuming they’re displayed in order of appearance, are from the first act. Wain says on the movie commentary (there is no deleted scene commentary) that after filming it was decided that they needed to get to the kids as quickly as possible. This was probably the right decision, but these brief gags are still pretty funny. The deleted scenes from post-kid parts of the movie are more of the full scene variety, and pretty funny too (you might have seen some of them in the trailers). Actually, I think I laughed harder at the deleted footage than I did at the stuff that made the final film.
After four minutes of bloopers, you might want to check out ‘On the Set’, which moves along the lines of the normal EPK, but much more vulgar than would be acceptable on basic cable. The seven and a half minute featurette is funny and sweet, like the movie itself, and covers the writing process (which was largely ad-libbed), casting, filming, etc, all set to mushy interviews and raw behind the scenes footage. ‘Game On’ is a nine minute companion piece covering the set-up and filming of the LARP scenes. There was real fight coordinator (Jeff Imada, a big name in choreography) on set, who trained the actors, which isn’t actually as surprising as the effort that went into costume design, which I had assumed was just what the extras brought with them. Sections from these behind the scenes bits can be found using the U-Control PiP option while watching the movie.
‘In-Character and off Script’ is a collection of three improv sessions with three separate actors, set up like interviews with the characters, and cut to footage from the film. These total about eight minutes and are followed by ‘Ye Olde Crest Maker’, an interactive feature which allows you to create your own battle crest from four screens, each with four choices.
I suppose that even beyond the comparisons to other recent and popular R rated comedies, Role Models takes many cues from the father of all troubled kids hooking up with troubled adults movies— The Bad News Bears. Overall it’s a pretty good film, but isn’t drop-dead funny or sweet enough to totally overcome the familiar elements. Definitely worth seeing for fans of the actors, and of director David Wain’s other work, like The State and Stella. The disc looks and sounds good (as expected), and the deleted scenes feature some very funny moments.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 10th March 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 French, DTS 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, and Spanish
Extras: Director Commentary, U-Control PiP, Deleted Scenes and Alternate Takes, Bloopers, On the Set of Role Models, Game On: Creating a Role Playing World, 'In-Character and Off-Script', 'Ye Olde Crest Maker'
Easter Egg: No
Director: David Wain
Cast: Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Elizabeth Banks, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb'e J. Thompson
Length: 102 minutes
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