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Role Models

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Petty offender gets paired with high-risk kid. Hijinks ensue.
  • Petty offender gets paired with high-risk kid. Hijinks ensue.

Role Models (R)

Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown

There's something pathetic about a movie character who has more respect for himself than the movie seems to have for him. He's like a bedraggled puppy lured in from the rain only to get kicked in the teeth while he's warming himself.

Such is the fate of Role Model's Augie Farks, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse (who suffered much the same fate in Superbad). Here, once again, he's a charming dork who is, for the most part, self-confident and OK with his weirdness, which should be a thing to celebrate. But instead, he is granted only grudging approval, and that after suffering much abuse for our "entertainment."

It's a strange and confused kind of hypocrisy at play, for by the time Role Models comes to realize that, hey, Augie's pretty cool in his own way, it's too late. Augie's weird-coolness is now useful only because it serves to wake up the flick's hero to his own lack of enjoyment of life.

Oh, to be sure, Role Models is that usual Frankensteinian assemblage of tittering about bodily fluids, casual homophobia, random emotionless sex acts and other expressions of apparently unoutgrowable male adolescent anxiety that passes for American comedy today. But it wants to be meaningful about 30-something GenX ennui.

We have Danny (Paul Rudd), who is 35 years old and miserable with his life. He's "selling poison to our nation's youth," he moans, as he and co-worker Wheeler (Seann William Scott) spend their days pushing Minotaur, a vile energy drink that costs six bucks a can, on schoolchildren.

So Danny snaps one day, and he and Wheeler end up with a string of petty legal offenses that add up to 30 days in jail. Or, they can do 150 hours of community service in a Big Brother-type program. I shan't even go into the issue of teaming up unwilling and clearly unsuitable adults with supposedly at-risk kids; that's a whole other rant.

No, the thing that pisses me off most about Role Models is that we're meant to identify with Danny, who, at 35, is a blank slate. He has no friends Wheeler is just a co-worker and no apparent interests in anything whatsoever. He's meant to be a model of "normality," but the movie doesn't realize that there might be something wrong with that.

Oh, it pretends to get it, but not till the last 20 minutes, and then it's too late. See, Augie, the kid Danny is supposed to mentor, is into live-action role-playing: you know, where people with imagination dress up like knights or elves or wizards or whatever and escape for a little while from a world where pushing poison on kids is an acceptable thing. And after an hour of the movie dumping on Augie for being a freaky weirdo who wears a cape, someone who doesn't deserve the kind of respect that the movie apparently believes that, say, Wheeler deserves even though his only talent is an ability to get random women into bed at a moment's notice suddenly the movie gets it. Augie's OK after all.

"Hey, sorry, kid, for treating you like garbage all along," the movie seems to say, "but we're OK now, right?"

No.

scene@csindy.com

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