Movie Preview

Role Models (2008)

Details Release Date: Nov 07, 2008; Rated: R; Length: 95 Minutes; Genre: Comedy; With: Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott; Distributor: Universal

Starring: Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott
Directed by: David Wain
Release date: November 7

Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott were prepared for war, as were the nearly 170 armor-plated extras. No, they weren't making a Lord of the Rings sequel. They were filming the climax of their bromantic comedy Role Models, in which hordes of Middle Ages enthusiasts face off in the grandest, and geekiest, of brawls. But it was far less nerdy than it could have been: It was choreographed by Jeff Imada, the man behind the body-flipping fight scenes in the last two Bourne films. ''This guy was working with Matt Damon in the most badass action sequences,'' recalls Rudd, 39. ''And here I am. I can't even toss a three-foot foam sword.''

It's a good thing he learned, because the battle sequence takes up much of the last third of the movie. Still, there's more to Role Models than foam sword fights. The comedy — directed by David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer) — has heart, plus plenty of raunchy humor. ''It's like a kids' movie,'' says Rudd, ''with a ton of bad language.'' The film follows two energy-drink salesmen who total their company's truck after a ''Stay Off Drugs'' presentation at a local school — and avoid jail by doing community service at a Big Brothers-like foundation called Sturdy Wings. Rudd's character, Danny, is assigned to mentor a geek in shining armor (Superbad's Christopher Mintz-Plasse), while Scott's character, Wheeler, is matched with a hilariously foulmouthed boy named Ronnie (That's So Raven's Bobb'e J. Thompson).

And we mean foul. Though the vibe is often more School of Rock than Porky's, Role Models is a strange fit for the family-friendly holiday season, particularly given its wildly un-PC bits. (In one memorable scene, Danny tells a ghost story about child sex trafficking.) But no kids were emotionally harmed in the making of this film. Child-service representatives escorted young actors from the set before Wain shot some especially suggestive sequences — like one in which Wheeler explains Kiss' ''Love Gun'' to Ronnie. ''I watched a screening and thought, 'Oh, my God. Did we ruin this child?''' says Jane Lynch (40 Year-Old Virgin), who plays Sturdy Wings' oversharing, ex-addict founder. ''But I think he came to us that way. He's dirtier than any of us.'' (Thompson's mother had script approval prior to filming, and the boy himself admits, ''I had the cussing down pat.'')

Considering the amount of bathroom gags and banter about female anatomy, it's hard to believe that Role Models was initially conceived as a drama years ago. Among the screenwriters who helped transform it into a comedy was Rudd, earning his first major screenwriting credit (which he shares with Wain, Ken Marino, and Timothy Dowling). The strangest part of his new gig? Clout. One day, Rudd dreamed up the ''Minotaur Mobile,'' a gaudy truck advertising the protagonists' energy-drink company. Months later, he was introduced to a tricked-out Ford F-150, complete with bullhorns and a giant energy-drink can. ''I was like, Holy s---!'' he says. ''You write, 'Oh, there's this thing called a 'Minotaur Mobile,' and then there it is. And it clearly cost tens of thousands of dollars. It's a weird kind of power.''

While much of the cast had worked together in the past — Wain & Co. recruited players from Team Apatow (Lynch, Mintz-Plasse) and drew secondary characters from Wain's former comedy troupe, the State (Kerri Kenney-Silver, Joe Lo Truglio) — Scott found himself a bit of an outsider. ''I just try not to ruin the film,'' jokes Scott, 32. Thankfully, his position as ''the new kid in school'' worked to his benefit, since his manic, dirty brand of comedy helped balance Rudd's deadpan sarcasm. As producer Scott Stuber puts it, ''When people work really well together, they have different rhythms. That's what made Vince [Vaughn] and Owen [Wilson] so much fun in Wedding Crashers.'' A Scott/Rudd comedy duo certainly makes more sense than, say, a Scott/Billy Bob Thornton one. ''I remember when we were shooting Mr. Woodcock, I was like, 'Oh, God, this movie sucks.' And of course, the end result was it sucked,'' he says. ''But when I saw the first cut of Role Models, I was like, 'Wow, that was really funny.''' (He adds that his mom has seen the film four times already.)

A veteran of uninhibited comedies since playing sex-crazed Stifler in the American Pie films, Scott found himself serving as a real-life mentor to Mintz-Plasse, who broke out as McLovin in last year's hit Superbad. ''I remember that experience with American Pie when your whole life changes and you've got this movie that's this strange juggernaut and people recognize you,'' says Scott. ''He was like, 'Did people ever come up to you about Stifler? Did it ever get annoying? Because people always call me freaking McLovin.'''

If Role Models connects with audiences after its Nov. 7 opening, people might approach Mintz-Plasse about fake swordplay rather than fake IDs, thanks to his memorable moves in the film's climactic battle. ''We've been screening Role Models the past couple nights, and afterwards, no one in the theater has really called me McLovin,'' says Mintz-Plasse, 19. ''So that's a good sign.''

And for the record: Mintz-Plasse says he felt ''badass'' performing his Imada-choreographed fights. Should Jason Bourne watch his back? No, insists Rudd. ''Matt Damon is infinitely cooler than us.''

Originally posted Oct 31, 2008 Published in issue #1019 Nov 07, 2008 Order article reprints
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