Meet Wheeler (Scott ) and Danny (Rudd) -- two salesmen who get to hawk a blue sugary caffeine-filled energy drink called Minotaur. Wheeler is a swingin’ KISS-lovin’ single guy who loves his job playing THE Minotaur while depressed Danny has settled into a nice mid-life crisis loathing just about anything and everyone. These two are just destined to become role models. And so after some very bad circumstances Wheeler and Danny do just that forced into 150 community service hours at a mentorship program. It’s either play big brother to a couple of kids or go to jail. Danny gets assigned to Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) a 16-year-old obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons medieval role play while Wheeler gets a 10-year-old foul-mouthed troublemaker named Ronnie (Bobb'e J Thompson). After one day jail isn’t looking half-bad. For a premise that sounds a bit shaky the cast of Role Models simply sell it. Thanks to the likes of Anchorman and 40 Year-Old Virgin Paul Rudd has found his niche as the go-to guy for deadpan humor. Seann William Scott too seems more mature this time finally shedding that American Pie smug arrogance he’s had to live with for so many years. Virgin’s Jane Lynch is hysterical as the head of the mentorship program Sturdy Wings an ex-addict who takes no crap. Elizabeth Banks (she’s in everything lately) also does a nice job as Danny’s girlfriend who has had it with his behavior. And the kids add to the flavor: Mintz-Plasse aka McLovin’ from Superbad gets to try something different as the geeky Lord of the Rings wannabe while newcomer Thompson plays the smartass kid who curses with a certain panache. Can you believe producer/writer/director Judd Apatow had nothing to do with Role Models? It seems to have many of his signature touches including a pretty hard R rating for a movie with kids in it. But actually Role Models comes from the minds of ex-The State members David Wain and Ken Marino along with Paul Rudd and a few other writers. And for once a long list of writers doesn’t spell trouble for the film; it seems to have only enhanced the comedy. The best part of Role Models has to be the medieval role-playing festival where all known D&D and LOTR enthusiasts come out in droves dressed in full gear ready to wage battle and clash rubber swords for their made-up countries’ supreme dominance. It really happens folks and to have front-row seats to this world is quite a comedic treat.
Writer and star Jason Segel concocted this romantic comedy from an experience in his own life. It is a moment recreated right at the top of the film when TV and frustrated puppet theatre composer Peter Bretter (Segel) stands naked physically and emotionally as his TV-series star girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) dumps him for another guy. Not being able to deal with the sudden rejection and unable to perform properly at his job he decides to take the Hawaiian vacation he and his now-ex never got around to. Unfortunately she coincidentally has the same idea and with her English rocker new boyfriend (Russell Brand) in tow and winds up in the exact same resort with poor pitiful Peter. In a tactic designed to prove Sarah made a huge mistake he manages to hook up with the hotel’s pretty and sympathetic concierge (Mila Kunis)--signing up for “activities” she is unlikely to suggest to any other guest. With the Hawaiian paradise as the perfect backdrop the film turns into a classic battle of the sexes as Peter attempts to put the pieces of his shattered heart back together. One of the original regulars of producer Judd Apatow’s short-lived NBC series Freeks and Geeks and now co-star of How I Met Your Mother Jason Segel smartly breaks out of the supporting TV mode and proves his worth as a fine comic movie lead in his sharply observed script inspired by an incident that happened in his own life. Sure to be much discussed and dissected the hilarious opening scenes in which he boldly goes for laughs displaying his full frontal manhood signals him as a screen actor unafraid to let it all hang out there. That’s just perfect for a character who pretty much wears his vulnerability on his sleeve (when he has one on). As a screenwriter he has also given his co-stars choice roles to run with as well. Bell as the vapid TV actress takes what could have been a one-dimensional role and shapes her Sarah Marshall into a believable human being who finally hits a wall in her longtime relationship. Kunis (TV's That '70s Show) is an enormously appealing and warm screen presence and Brand as the loopy rocker steals every scene he’s in with one of the year’s most indelible comic creations. As usual some of Apatow’s stable of regulars turn up here as well with standout bits from Knocked Up and 40 Year-Old Virgin’s Paul Rudd as a loony surf instructor and Superbad’s Jonah Hill as the fanboy restaurant host. Debuting feature director Nicholas Stoller got some early experience on Apatow’s underappreciated series Undeclared and does a nice job here bringing Segel’s creation to the screen. A mark of a good director is good performances and there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. Not too shabby for a first timer. His achievement however is clearly overwhelmed by the imposing shadow of producer Apatow and his star/writer. It’s their show but Stoller goes light on stylistic touches and doesn’t screw it up seamlessly letting the actors the terrific script and the scenery do all the heavy lifting making this Sarah Marshall hard to forget indeed.