‘Role Models’ cast, dialogue make this movie a success

Posted Nov. 13, 2008, at 5:35 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:02 a.m.

In theaters

ROLE MODELS, directed by David Wain, written by Paul Rudd, Wain, Ken Marino and Timothy Dowling, 99 minutes, rated R.

The funny new David Wain movie, “Role Models,” stars Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott as Danny and Wheeler, two adult best friends who haven’t exactly reached their personal zeniths. During any given week, you’ll find them humiliating themselves daily by shucking an energy drink called Minotaur at school conventions.

Doing so involves Wheeler wearing a furry Minotaur suit, and Danny driving a juiced-up Minotaur truck. The latter has monster wheels, an aggressive paint job, and the ability to shoot great balls of fire out of its horns. Classy.

When they get into trouble with the law for reasons best left for the screen, they find themselves at a crossroads — be sent to jail for one month, or give 150 hours of their time to the rough-and-tumble world of “Sturdy Wings,” which essentially is a Big Brother program, though not in any conventional sense.

It is, after all, run by Gayle (Jane Lynch, sour, bitter, outstanding), a

woman with a lovely tattoo creeping up her forearm who claims she once ate cocaine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Gayle is as tough as a red light district having a competitive tent sale — her sneer could start a war — but since she’s apparently been reformed (that’s debatable), she wants the best for her young charges, the lot of whom she calls her “Littles.”

For Gayle’s “Bigs,” such as bright, sarcastic Danny, who is so gloomy, his relationship with his lawyer girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks) ends as the movie begins, that means being saddled with Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who is sort of like a male version of Heather Matarazzo’s Dawn Wiener from Todd Solondz’s 1995 movie, “Welcome to the Dollhouse.” Augie is a geek, through and through, and an endearing one at that. Since he has a difficult, combative home life, he exists in a medieval fantasy world, dressing in capes and partaking in fake battles with others of similar ilk.

As for Wheeler, who isn’t as sharp as Bobby but whose heart is bigger, he’s challenged with Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson, stealing each of scenes), a devil child with a mind for trouble and a mouth apparently designed to drop a string of F bombs. This kid isn’t just a handful — he’s the antichrist. As played by Thompson, he’s also one of the movie’s great pleasures — he’s such a gifted comic, he gives the movie the boost of unpredictability it needs. The film would be unthinkable without him in it.

The reason “Role Models” succeeds comes down to its cast, their performances and its biting dialogue, which are so good, they override the fact that you know exactly how all of this will turn out long before the movie ends. The movie offers such a groundswell of lunacy, you’re swept away by it, often laughing thanks to it, and distracted from what otherwise is just a simple film driven by formula.

Grade: B+

On DVD and Blu-ray disc

WALL-E, directed by Andrew Stanton, written by Stanton and Jim Reardon, 103 minutes, rated G.

The last time Disney and Pixar teamed up for a movie, it was in the Academy Award-winning “Ratatouille,” a magnificent film that followed one determined, lovable little rat named Remy, who may have been raised to eat trash, poor thing, but who nevertheless dreamed big of becoming a master chef and full-on gourmand.

In “Wall-E,” trash still enters into the equation, this time in a much larger but no less satisfying way. The result is a terrific film, one that lifts the bar for computer animation — literally and figuratively — high into the universe.

The film is set hundreds of years in the future, with Earth now burnt to a near crisp and overcome by mountains of trash piled as high as the skyscrapers surrounding them. There, working diligently at ground level is Wall-E, the adorable robot with the sloping cameras for eyes and a clunky body whose job it is to neatly package all the waste we humans left behind before fleeing the planet when it no longer could sustain us.

As for the human race, the outlook is grim. We’re depicted as fat, lazy, clueless creatures with giant bellies and almost zero bone mass. We live aboard the Axiom, a giant space ship that roams the heavens, presumably until Earth is once again inhabitable.

With only a cockroach for companionship, Wall-E’s loneliness is as palpable as the dire situation facing Earth. And so when he unexpectedly is visited by Eve, a sleek, hot (and hot-tempered) robot sent to Earth to find signs of life in vegetation, what he sees in her is the love of his life. He would follow her anywhere, which proves something of a problem when he gifts to Eve a plant he found and potted in an old shoe.

Since Eve is programmed to return any sort of plant life to the Axiom for study, off she goes, with Wall-E tagging along for an adventure that consumes the rest of the movie. Though the twists and turns that ensue won’t be revealed here, it is safe to say this: While aboard the Axiom, which is owned by an evil corporate giant, echoes of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001” abound, with the movie not only becoming about man against machine, but also machine against machine.

With its gorgeous, detailed animation backing a script so spare in dialogue, you watch in admiration at how well the story nevertheless is told, “Wall-E” is another triumph for the great, creative minds coming out of one of Hollywood’s brightest think tanks. The movie is exciting, it’s poignant, it’s prescient, and it has a vision for the future steeped in the very real problems troubling our planet now.

Coming away from it, you might want to just hand Disney and Pixar the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature now. It’s that good, and it’s difficult to imagine a better, more impressive animated film released this year.

Grade: A

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and archive of hundreds of movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Mondays, Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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