Role Models

Starring Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott. Rated 14A.

Role Models is a laugh-out-loud vehicle for former leading man and occasional comic-cameo man Paul Rudd, here playing Danny Donahue, a black-suited cynic whose options are limited by lack of commitment to anything but what you might call informed snarkiness.

His job as an energy-drink rep doesn’t help. He drives around all day, hyped up on his product, which is pushed in a hokey presentation aimed at keeping kids off drugs. His partner in corporate crime is Wheeler (Seann William Scott), a goodhearted dumbbell who doesn’t mind dressing as a mythical bull/man (the drink is called Minotaur) as long as he has plenty of time to bang chicks throughout Southern California.

Danny is only keen on one gal (a seriously underused Elizabeth Banks), but she’s fed up and seemingly undeterred by his sincere plea to stay: “Where am I going to find another woman who hates all the things I hate?”

Our tightly wound hero finally loses it one day, taking Wheeler with him to jail. The boys end up with 30 days of forced service, as part of a Big Brothers–like program run by an ex-junkie (scene-stealing Jane Lynch) whose up-with-people shtick barely hides some very funny neuroses.

We know that the “littles” these bigs are handed will get attached in some transformative way, but the journey itself remains raunchily surprising almost the whole way in. Wheeler is stuck with a diminutive African-American (Bobb’e J. Thompson) with a mouth like a drunken teamster, while Danny snags a supernerd (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) whose fixation on medieval role-playing eventually hijacks the story.

Wheeler has less distance to travel in the personal-growth portion of the plot, but the script—from Rudd, director David Wain, and two others seen in small parts—doesn’t push the characters too far. In the end, the new, improved Danny will probably still find plenty of things to hate. But now he’ll have a sense of humour about it.