Paul Rudd (as Danny), per usual, plays a dickhead dripping with so much I-am-superior cynicism that you want to reach through that fourth wall and wring his neck a little. Sean William Scott (as Wheeler), on the other hand, plays an off-the-leash lady killer with a million bad passes up his sleeve (he tries to pull a chick by referencing Hillary Clinton's It Takes A Village and then saying, "I'm really into politics"). Wheeler is the type of guy that will stick his fingerbangin' ring finger under your nose but still care enough to pause and give you some well-intentioned - yet misguided - advice.
After an elaborate public disturbance, the pair are court-ordered to serve one hundred fifty hours at a "big brother" facility. From here you can feel where the plot is headed, but to scoff at Role Models and then quickly shrug it off would be as narrow-minded as Danny dismissing one of his co-workers for saying "asap" all the time. (He tells his girlfriend, "I love that we hate the same things"... a sure sign of a man seeking affection for the wrong reasons.) Through the laughter, Role Models, holds a deceptively serious tone, one that comes across most strongly in a scene where Danny and Wheeler are let go by the social program counselor. The talking-to she (Jane Lynch) gives them comes dressed in a funny scenario, but the way she made me not even crack a smile during the speech left me able to be knocked over with a feather.
Role Models takes the feel-good foul play of last year's Knocked-Up and Superbad and elevates it to an even warmer place. It was easy to cuddle-up to the schlubs and slackers of those films because, really, they were living pretty sweet lives. Being a virgin and/or getting a successful woman (who is out of your league) pregnant are pretty minor dilemmas compared to Ronnie's fatherless home and Augie's house with a step-father who is anything but. This is why the title to Role Models is more than tongue-in-cheek smirk. Role models is indeed what Ronnie and Augie crave, and writers David Wain, Ken Marino, and Paul Rudd take that modern day cultural parallel seriously.
A fantastic fact about this movie year - one that has been overshadowed by The Dark Knight mania - is that 2008 has been the year of the comedy. A year of social-films that have been more politically brave and astute than any comic book allegory could hope to be: You Don't Mess With The Zohan, The House Bunny, Tropic Thunder, Baby Mama, Swing Vote, Burn After Reading. I think, now, you can add Role Models to that list.