Role Models (2008) — LARP out with your harp out

“Dude, I just spent the afternoon in Middle-earth with glee-glop and the floopty-doos, all right?”

Justin’s rating: “LARP” just sounds dirty…

Justin’s review: Let’s face it: Some people probably should never be role models. Britney Spears, for instance. Gary Busey, for another. Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco. Any college professor who extols the excellence of Lolita a little too much. People whose ideas of intellectual discourse usually end with the phrase “Git er done!” or “That’s what SHE said!” Anyone who’s written for Mutant Reviewers. And, it should go without saying, anyone who’s ever appeared on, hosted or produced a reality TV show or talk show.

That leaves us precious few decent role models in the world for today’s whippersnappers, so is it any surprise when you read about some kid who tried to ramp his mom’s SUV off of a snow bank in a Costco parking lot to sail above, and then straight into, a retaining pond?

Two more people we could add to the above list might include Paul Rudd (who’s mastered the sarcastic, depressed, and verbose loser) and Seann William Scott (who is at least 40 years old and still playing Stifler in each and every film). Mothers should be bundling their precious youngsters under their arms and fleeing the streets, like in a Western or something, if they saw this pair approach their children.

So it’ll obviously take a small miracle or great con to see Rudd and Scott placed into a “Big Brother/Little Brother”-type social program, which is delivered via the fickle fairy of movie fate. As part of the traveling duo of energy drink salespeople, Rudd finally snaps one day and does a bit of GTA in the ‘burbs (with Scott in the passenger seat). The court, perhaps absolutely delusional, orders them to watch over a kid for a month as community service.

Nevermind the inevitable lawsuit from parents, upset that their negligence is being upstaged by felon babysitters – these boys did the crime, and now they’re gonna do the time. Of their LIFE!

It’s here the movie kind of splits in half, with Scott taking a foul-mouthed punk kid under his wing as Rudd watches over a renaissance faire geek. The first story is pretty offensive and annoying, as Stifler tries to pass down the collective wisdom of every frat boy into a child who’s far more in need of a firm hand than a walking, talking Playboy encyclopedia. I guess he learns something in the end or whatever, but most of the time these two were interacting, I kept wincing that someone thought it’d be a terrific idea to shove the M-F word into a 10-year-old’s mouth as entertainment.

I guess we’ve just proved that this movie isn’t an ideal role model either?

Oddly enough, Rudd’s story has far more substance and is incredibly likable – taken by itself, it would most likely bring the film’s rating down to a PG or PG-13, and be enough for a raving endorsement by yours truly. Rudd’s charge is a complete LARP freak (that’s Live Action Role-Playing, to you non-geeks out there), whose idea of a great time is to dress up in medieval garb, grab a foam sword, and stage elaborate battles in the middle of a park with a horde of fellow geeks.

While at first he’s simply appalled at being thrust into the middle of a D&D nightmare, Rudd starts to see a kid who can only find happiness through this outlet, and he grudgingly joins in. The end result is… well, I won’t spoil it for you, but for all the uneven laughs that the first 2/3rds of the film provides, the final act is solid gold (or platinum). It becomes a celebration of a particular geek subset that doesn’t get much else than mockery in other mainstream films, and I have to admire Role Models for taking the path less traveled.

Quite a few friends have gushed about this movie, best of 2008 comedies and whatnot, but I am not quite convinced. I do think it’s worth another viewing or two – I just wish the Apatow clique would realize that good comedy can exist without extreme gratuitous vulgarity and nudity. Too much to hope perhaps.

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