dir: David Wain
I really do wonder how some flicks get made. This isn’t a bad flick, but when I think about the performances, the plot and its success, I wonder who thought it was a good idea in the first place.
For a flick without a single likable character in it, it does manage to generate several laughs, at least several more laughs than another recent comedy that inflicted itself upon our eyeballs called Observe and Report. The difference is that this flick is nowhere near as vile, and does have some pretty funny moments. Not many, but enough.
This one, unfortunately, has Seann William Scott in a lead role, and that never helps anybody. As I’ve said in other reviews, I think it’s great that retarded people not be excluded from working in Hollywood, and that Scott continuing to get work gives hope to all the other Downs Syndrome sufferers out there. But good God is he dumb. Even knowing that he’s supposed to be dumb doesn’t change the fact that he consistently gives the impression that he’s only a few seconds away from crapping his own pants.
Paul Rudd is a bit better, but he’s really only playing a minor variation on most of the characters he ever plays. Actually, scratch that, he remains unchanged from movie to movie. The difference is that I actually find him likable even if his characters are obnoxious.
Danny (Paul Rudd) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott) are two shmucks joined by a common work purpose, that being working for one of those loathsome energy drink companies. Their task in life is visiting schools, delivering speeches about how kids should stay off hard illegal drugs and instead get addicted to legal substances like the contents of their energy drink Minotaur. Wheeler, being a moron, loves the fuck out of his job. Danny hates the fact that he’s been stuck in a job he hates for so long, and hates pretty much everything else in the world as well. When his long-suffering lawyer girlfriend starts getting tired of his bullshit, sensing this, he proposes, with apposite results ensuing.
After a nonsensical binge that only makes sense if the contents of energy drinks actually contain half the crap the producers contend, Danny and Wheeler end up in trouble with the law, and are both looking at jail time. Of course, the legal system being what it is, these middle class white guys get screwed, and end up having to do community service in the form of a Big Brother program.
No, it doesn’t mean they start working for the National Security Agency, examining the contents of all suspicious emails and phone conversations, looking for references to terrorism, bombings or tasty pudding. They are meant to be mentors to two disadvantaged kids.
The person running the Sturdy Wings program, a former drug addict (Jane Lynch), gets some of the funniest, and most of the worst lines in the flick, in a performance that veers from parody to pantomime and back again. Almost none of the performances are really that credible, but it’s not like they have to be. She especially carries on like a fucking nut, and clearly improvises a lot of lines, as do many of the other leads, who will just start rambling about stuff that any decent director or editor would have cut out.
Danny is paired up with a LARP-obsessed geek called Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and Wheeler gets a violent, foul-mouthed African-American kid as his charge (Bobb’e J. Thomson). What follows is essentially the same path as the one followed by the majority of the blandest romantic comedies, with similar results.
If you’re lucky enough not to know what LARP is, I’ll spell it out for you thusly: It’s a form of role playing, except instead of sitting in someone’s basement, or at the library with other similar highly socially adept individuals and rolling dice or dropping cards, you actually get to run around and wack people with foam swords and such. In this film it’s called L.A.I.R.E., and its purpose is both to make the majority of filmgoers feel superior to the people who invest so much emotion, time and effort into such things, until the climax, where the flick improbably and inexplicably decides that it really isn’t such a bad thing after all.
The point is meant to be at least initially that these two guys aren’t really that keen on performing this community service, because they’re selfish, and then start to bond with the kids, and then both simultaneously fuck things up by being selfish, leading to their need to do something selfless and embarrassing in the final reel in order to win their respective affections back.
In some ways, and the movie plays off on it constantly, most of the humour comes from the uncomfortable concept of unrelated adult males spending time with children. There are constant references to child molestation, the threat or the denial of it, so much so that you wonder whether such a flick could exist without that uneasy tension, or whether it would have been half an hour long.
Look, the premise is as retarded as Seann William Scott, but there are a good many funny lines sprinkled throughout. Paul Rudd saves most of the best lines for himself, but it helps that he wrote the screenplay in collaboration with the director and the original screenwriter, for whom this premise was meant to be a drama. I can imagine how disappointed the original writer must be as he sits in his bathtub full of money, rubbing himself all over with images of Benjamin Franklin, dabbing at the corner of his teary eyes with crisp $100 bills.
The kids aren’t really given that much in the way of motivation or personality beyond their obvious primary traits. Ronnie, the African-American kid, having been abandoned by his father, acts out and is unruly, and treats Wheeler like shit until they bond during a discussion about boobies. From then on they’re best buds until Wheeler abandons him at a party to go and have sex with a hot school teacher. How that transition occurs from emotionally disturbed miscreant to loyal and super happy friends is mysterious to me. Very mysterious. No-one wants to be friends with Seann William Scott, whether in reality or in fiction.
Danny hates everyone and everything around him, and only really develops any feelings for Augie once he sees what arseholes his parents are, and the manner in which they belittle him. Up until the end he’s a misanthropic jerk, and it’s no wonder, since everyone around him does suck, truth be told. Augie is pretty lame, which is neither here nor there, because his purpose is solely to be the socially-awkward nerd that someone who is as ‘cool’ as Danny could possibly elevate into the realms of the ‘cool’ by sacrificing his dignity in order to give Augie’s roleplaying obsession some meaning.
This culminates in a final battle as the KISS Army takes on all the gathered fantasy nations at the L.A.I.R.E event of the year, the Battle Royale. At this point the flick and the protagonists decide that this live roleplaying stuff isn’t as lame as they previously believed, and they embrace it wholeheartedly, resulting in a ludicrous but entertaining finale, as everyone receives the happy endings they were aching for.
In the final wash-up, I think it’s a strange but sporadically entertaining flick which could have benefited from having anyone else apart from Seann William Scott in one of the lead roles. It’s not because I thought his performance was bad: Au Contrair! It’s just that nothing is improved by having him in it, therefore the converse of which would assert that his absence makes things better. Paul Rudd plays Paul Rudd like he does in all the films that have been coming out under the Judd Apatow banner for the last decade or so (though Apatow has nothing to do with this production). It’s also good that Seth Rogen has no role to play in this production. It makes me very happy.
Ignoring all the other people I could list who I’m happy aren’t in it (Mao Tse Tung? Stalin? Jimmy Carter?) I have to console myself with those who were, and what was said instead of what went unspoken. This isn’t masterpiece cinema, or even a remotely brilliant comedy. It’s amusing enough, though, which means that even if you enjoy it whilst watching it, you’re still going to be an hour and forty minutes closer to your own death at the end of it.
6 times I wouldn’t have been able to turn that teacher down either out of 10
“Me and the judge have a special relationship... I don't wanna get too graphic but I sucked his dick for drugs.” – thanks for not sharing too much information, Role Models.