“They're about to get more than they plea-bargained for.”
Before the fans of ‘Role Models’ form a lynch mob to tar and feather this reviewer for his rather low opinion of the film itself, let me head you off at the pass right now and clarify something. I’m aware that lots of people love this movie. IGN even labeled it as the funniest comedy of 2008. The thing is, there also seems to be a fair number of folks who really don’t see what all the fuss is about—and alas, I happened to be one of the unlucky ones to fall into that category. I don't know if my expectations were just too high from what I saw in the trailers and heard from the hype, but I found the laughs to be very few and far between for a comedy and when it was all said and done—the experience felt like somewhat of a downer to me.
The story follows the lives of Wheeler (Seann William Scott) and Danny (Paul Rudd), two salesmen for an energy drink called Minotaur. Wheeler is a party boy who loves life and his job, while Danny is the complete opposite and views the world in the most cynical way imaginable. Of course, Danny’s lawyer girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks) can only take so much of her boyfriend’s negative attitude and eventually dumps him, causing Danny to drown his sorrows on an energy drink binge that eventually gets he and Wheeler in trouble with the law.
Both men are subsequently sentenced to thirty days in jail for their conduct, although Beth pulls some strings with the judge and knocks it down to 150 hours of community service at a big brother type organization called Sturdy Wings. The director of the mentor program, a tough whip-cracker named Gayle (Jane Lynch), makes it clear to the guys that if they step out of line she has the power to send them to prison. To make matters worse, Wheeler is assigned Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson), an unruly little hellion who has driven away all of his prior "bigs," and Danny is partnered with super-geek extraordinaire, Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse AKA McLovin), a live-action role playing fanatic and the oldest kid of the bunch. Counting each and every hour of their court-appointed hell, Danny and Wheeler must not only find a way to make the best of their predicament, but also salvage what's left of their quickly disintegrating sanity.
’Role Models’ follows the common cookie cutter template of many comedies: the main character or characters are thrust into an awkward situation completely out of their element, after awhile they begin to warm up to their ordeal, then they do something totally idiotic to screw up royally, and finally they take the bull by the horns and set things right so there’s a happy ending. Certainly, this is an effective plot pattern, but it really needs to be woven together with a decent amount of hilarity in order for it to succeed and it just didn't do it for me. The first act of the movie was so dull and boring that I would have actually turned it off about a half an hour in if I wasn't doing a review. The whole energy drink angle was overdone, and way too much screen time is given to Lynch who plays her part so serious that I didn’t find her remotely funny. In fact, I couldn’t wait for her scenes to be over with. Even weirder is that there’s a ton of deleted material (see below) and a fair bit of it is funnier stuff than what’s actually included in the movie. Go figure.
Now I’m not saying the film is a total bust as there are some witty lines as well as a couple of laugh out loud moments, plus it did pick up a little for the second half. I also thought the writing was pretty clever having a “role” theme going for it by intermingling role models with live-action role playing games (LARPing) into a cohesive story. Without spoiling too many details, everything did come together for a solid feel-good finish, too. The problem I have is that it's almost as if the filmmakers started with an idea for the ending and worked their way backwards—only to run out of steam before reaching the start. Strong climaxes are very critical in any movie, and here it’s just nowhere near enough to redeem the very weak first act and the mediocre middle. I’m sure many will disagree, but ‘Role Models’ isn’t a movie I’ll be revisiting anytime soon.
Universal presents ‘Role Models’ on a BD-50 with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (1.85:1 aspect ratio) transfer that is capable if a little unexceptional compared to other titles on Blu-ray.
Colors are bold, although it does seem contrast is cranked a couple of notches too high, which makes many shots appear bright and glossy as if cast under a spotlight. On the other end, black levels are solid for the most part, except they do appear more navy bluish at times during the campfire scenes. It also seems some DNR was applied to the transfer as the picture is noticeably free of grain and noise. Facial detailing is a little on the soft side, with an almost pasty texture. Still, the video is pleasing, just not the best Blu-ray has to offer.
The U.S. version of the “Role Models” Blu-ray apparently isn’t region-locked so it should play in all PlayStation 3 and standalone players.
Likewise, the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is sufficient enough, but still doesn’t quite reach model status for the format.
Dialogue sounded a hair canned and distant to me, kind of like listening to a recording. There are some minimal surround effects, with the climactic medieval battle easily becoming the highlight. I wasn’t too crazy about the selection of music, but it has a few moments of rocking bass and sounded all right for what it was. Keeping in line with the overall theme of this review, I just expected more.
Also included are DTS 5.1soundtracks in French and Spanish, as well as optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
The ‘Role Models’ Blu-ray includes both the Theatrical Version of the film as well as an Unrated Version that features three additional minutes of explicit material. Universal also includes all of the standard supplements found on the DVD and much more.
Well, ’Role Models’ just wasn’t my cup of tea I guess. Personally, I thought the movie was way too sparsely populated with humor to be called a “comedy,” but then again it has loosened up a lot of phlegm for many—especially geeky types with closets full of “All your base are belong to us” tee-shirts. If you’ve seen the film and love it, the Blu-ray’s video and audio aren’t spectacular (but still a step up over the DVD), however, the bonus features are the ultimate clincher for snagging the high-def version. If you haven’t seen it, though, it would be wise to rent it first as it could’ve been a disappointing blind buy for me.