Comedy director David Wain has proven himself in the past with exercises in manic, over-the-top, ADD madness like Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten, and while his 2008 film Role Models doesn't strive for that level of slap-your-mama absurdism, it does consistently remain both totally nuts, and totally hilarious.
Wain gives the movie its initial boost by casting Paul Rudd in the starring role as Danny, a disgruntled spokesman for an energy drink called Minotaur. Rudd has been stealing the show in comedies for years, showing up to briefly spike the Laughs Per Minute ratio in everything from Apatow flicks to Will Ferrell vehicles, but seeing him take the lead is truly gratifying -- and, more importantly, funny. And Sean William Scott (still known mainly as Stiffler from American Pie) actually does a more than adequate job of playing the number two in this buddy film, taking on his usual role of the simple, horny creature with a crappy, post-college apartment and a zillion creative ways to talk about boobies. In this case, this creature comes in the form of a guy named Wheeler, who tours around with Danny to speaking engagements wearing a big, puffy minotaur costume. He pretty much likes the gig, but Danny gets steadily more and more despondent over the lack of meaning in his life, and eventually tells an auditorium full of middle-schoolers to stem the tide of life's unyielding mediocrity and get started on hard drugs good and early. Then he and Wheeler crash the Minotaur-mobile into a statue of a horse.
Danny's lawyer and recently ex-girlfriend Beth (played by Elizabeth Banks, the go-to-girl for seemingly every comedy made since the start of the millennium) manages to get the guys out of serving jail time by reducing their sentence to 150 hours of community service, which the judge stipulates must be carried out at Sturdy Wings, a Big Brothers type organization that partners problem kids with guiding older pals. Of course, Danny ends up with a fantasy obsessed, live-action role playing kid named Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, hopefully still known mainly as McLovin' -- for the rest of his life) and Wheeler gets Ronnie, the quintessential angry black 11 year old (Bobb'e J. Thompson, a kid who spews such earnest and authentic profanity that you'd swear he's really a 30 year old with one of those Gary Coleman type growth disorders). The premise is simple enough, but the execution is comedy gold. It doesn't try to push the envelope or bury a bunch of pretentious subtext under the humor, it just hands the idea over to the creative folks on either side of the camera and lets them whip it into a mile high pile of spot-on jokes about D&D nerds, relatively clever dick jokes, and kick-ass running character gags (read: Jane Lynch).
The story does eventually succumb to the now de rigeur standard of throwing in a sappy, guileless happy-ending to compensate for the rest of the movie's balls-out vulgarity, but it doesn't feel any more shoehorned here than it does anywhere else. In fact, the underlying mushiness in Role Models otherwise pops up in the movie in really delightful ways, like the storyline about role-playing dorks. The movie makes fun of their costumes and PVC swords, but in the end, it's totally sympathetic -- even celebratory -- about a bunch of kids doing what makes them happy. The heroes might storm the climactic battle in somewhat unorthodox outfits (which it would be a crime to spoil) but by this point, they've won you over with plenty of crudeness and satire and sodomy jokes. And besides, it's fun to play pretend. After all, that's why we go to movies in the first place.