At the Movies with Kevin: Role Models entertaining

The reason Paul Rudd is such a tremendous talent is because he is not obviously acting. It is a fundamental concept many stars have not mastered. Rudd does not try to be funny, but rather just is by the way he delivers the lines in slightly different vocal forms. This also applies to drama because emotions cannot be forced out of the audience, but must be earned through realistic portrayals of actual people with genuine problems that conflict with aspirations, hopes, or dreams.

In “Role Models,” Rudd plays Danny Donahue, a 35-year-old energy drink salesman whose constant unhappiness is beginning to strain his relationships with both his work partner, Wheeler (Seann William Scott), and girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks). One day, Danny decides to make dramatic changes in his life with impulsive decisions that could lead to horrible outcomes. Not surprisingly, things do not go as Danny envisioned and he becomes incredibly frustrated. Eventually, Danny becomes involved in certain hilarious but illegal activities that provide he and Wheeler with a court date.

The two men are told that they must spend 150 hours of community service time at Sturdy Wings, a reach-out program meant to provide children with mentors for their favorite activities. Danny is paired with Augie Farks (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a young adolescent who is obsessed with a medieval battle that is waged daily with others who wish to escape from the realities of current times. Wheeler’s partner is Ronnie Shields (Bobb’e J. Thompson), a foul-mouthed 10-year-old who shares the elder’s interest in the anatomy of the opposite sex.

The story treads familiar territory, meaning that the strength of the performances are essential in making the film more than an unforgettable formula buddy movie. Scott, who has an easier role than Rudd, excels in reprising a similar character to that of Stifler in the “American Pie” series.

The child performances are just as critical in creating genuine sentiment for the transformation of the two main characters. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who was excellent in “Superbad” as McLovin, creates a socially inept character who sees this battle as a way to feel included in a world more forgiving of differences than this one. Bobb’e J. Thompson plays a child who is at the age where he has not filter to anything he thinks, which is not a problem unless everything you think is either vulgar, offensive, or both. Thompson is hilarious in his portrayal and shows that he will have a real future in comedy, delivering his lines with the energy and rapidness of a more profane and brutally honest version of Wesley Snipes in “White Men Can’t Jump.”

Rudd establishes the tone for the entire film with his performance, which ranges from somber to uproarious in the sympathetic portrait of a person who often feels insignificant. After being continuously brilliant in comedies as far back as 1995 with “Clueless” and dramas like “The Cider House Rules,” he is evolving into an actor who can elevate those around him. “Role Models” is a sweet and funny film that simply adds to his resume as a versatile actor with his best work just over the horizon.

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