Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Paul Rudd, Seann
William Scott, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Jane Lynch,
Director: David Wain
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 99 Minutes (Theatrical), 102 Minutes (Unrated)
Release Date: March 10, 2009
“Well, well, well…if it isn’t Mr. Bulls—t and Dr. I’m-Full-Of-S—t.”
“Which one of us has the Ph.D?”
I had been looking forward to Role Models ever since it first hit theatres, where, like a lot of movies, I never got around to going. That’s not so tragic in this day and age; you can always count on a good DVD release to follow soon on the heels of theatrical exhibition, and in more and more cases, a good Blu-ray as well.
This is a good Blu-ray disc…more on that further down…but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed in the movie. Had it been just another by-the-numbers gross out comedy off of the Judd Apatow assembly line, my expectations would have been lower, but this was a movie with a solid premise and a good cast, including an impressively smart-mouthed youngster doing battle with a couple of honed veterans. But despite some genuinely funny moments, I couldn’t help thinking that there was more to the promise of laughter that was never delivered.
The movie stars Paul Rudd as Danny, whose midlife crisis isn’t helped by his increasing frustration with his job, where he drives around visiting schools and encourages kids to avoid drugs and indulge in his company’s brand of energy drink…never mind that it makes your urine look like something out of Re-animator. Assisting him is the more enthusiastic and frequently costumed Wheeler (Scott, in another free spirited best friend role that he’s so damn good at).
Paul has a wonderful girlfriend in Beth (Banks), but she’s about had enough. Her leaving is the last straw, and when Danny finally flips, he lands himself and Wheeler facing some jail time.
Beth, a lawyer, arranges a deal…150 hours of community service will keep the boys out of the slammer. And not just any community service, but an organization that pairs mentors up with troubled young boys. It’s led by the bizarre Gayle Sweeny (Lynch), and has a logo that might have Paul McCartney making a phone call to his lawyers.
The reluctant Danny is paired up with an older boy, Augie (Mintz-Plasse, McLovin in the flesh!), who has retreated rather far into a fantasy world of medieval battles and role playing. And Wheeler has his hands full with Ronnie (terrific young newcomer Thompson), who is street smart, foul mouthed, and determined to break his new mentor.
Like I mentioned, the premise is outstanding, but if the movie was trying for laughter and heart, it went about it in increasingly strange ways. Some scenes were good, as when Wheeler and Ronnie discover a mutual affection for breasts, but others just seemed weird, like Danny dressing him, Wheeler and the boys up as members of Kiss to save the day on the battlefield, and then singing a totally unfunny version of “Beth” with improvised lyrics to his lost love. Any girl that would come back to a guy after he does that is NOT someone I’d want representing me in a court of law.
This is a good cast, and they make a good effort…Paul Rudd even co-wrote the screenplay. But sometimes a comedy that strives for so-so and reaches it can be more satisfying than a comedy with higher aspirations that just falls flat. I laughed a number of times, but I laughed inconsistently, and not laughing at things the creators find funny just leaves you feeling awkward and disappointed.
NOTE: This disc offers both theatrical and unrated versions, with the unrated version running about three minutes longer.
This is a beautiful high definition transfer from Universal…though the nature of the film doesn’t require too many visual extremes, I was impressed at how both daylit and night scenes played with clarity and no undue grain. The camping scenes come through with detail and integrity despite the lack of lighting. Color schemes are well-rendered, save for every once in a while, when it looked like the faces were just a tad too yellowish.
This is a fairly dynamic DTS HD mix, with a couple of really big scenes (especially the battles) that really open up all stages and give this comedy much more in the audio department than you expect or that is even really required…nice job.
This is a loaded Blu-ray release from Universal, with SO many deleted scenes, I honestly lost count twice trying to count them all. But some of them are quite amusing. There’s a decent blooper reel and featurettes for on-the-set, in character and off script, and a look at creating the live action role playing game. There is also a commentary from director David Wain.
The disc also features Universal’s exclusive ‘U-Control’ extra, which allows one click access to picture in picture, allowing you extra interviews and behind the scenes footage while you watch. It’s only accessible if you choose the unrated version at launch, though. And you can access more content from BD LIVE if your player is internet capable.
Role Models offered plenty of prime comic material to explore, but it felt like the filmmakers only barely sifted through looking for the most obvious gems. It’s a fantastic Blu-ray offering, but I couldn’t help but feel it had more to offer that it just simply didn’t.