Movies I Want Everyone to See: Role Models

This Post was Originally Published on the Defunct Site “Fogs’ Movie Reviews” in the Fall of 2013.

I just bought tickets for three different Concerts in February for the Kiss End of the Road Tour, so this seemed like an easy pick to return to this month.

This is an easy one this week. There is no historical value, cinema language, or back story intrigue to make this a movie you should see. It is just funny as all get out with wiseacre talk, inappropriate life lessons and a cast of funny people who are just trying to entertain you for a couple of hours. If you are a fan of films like “I Love You Man” or “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” then you don’t want to miss this treat starring the slacker gods Sean William Scott and Paul Rudd. This is dumb comedy done in a smart way and it has so many quotable lines that it could easily displace Caddyshack on the list of guy movies that guys will quote incessantly.

The premise is basic. Two guys who work together get into a legal tangle and have to do some community service as a way of avoiding jail time. They get sent over to “Sturdy Wings” a mentoring organization along the lines of Big Brothers. Here they are matched with a couple of youngsters and the bonding and hilarity ensue.

I’m not sure why Sean William Scott gets the crap I hear flung at him. He has made a bunch of films that are entertaining and while he is not really a thespian per se, he is usually cast very well and “Role Models” may very well be his perfect role. As Wheeler, the less ambitious and more socially satisfied of the two, he espouses wisdom like a college student, after midnight on a three hour buzz from the hot box he got out of on his way to the frat party.  While there are some drug references, this is not a stoner film like the Seth Rogan comedies of the past ten years. Wheeler is an amiable goof who probably will not get far in life but who deserves every friend he has.

Typical Wheeler Philosophy:

Wheeler: Never stare at the boobies, kid. Once you get caught, the game’s over.

Ronnie Shields: But how?

Wheeler: It’s called training. You know, being aware without drawing attention. You don’t think I’ve noticed those 34 C’s in the camouflage tank top setting up a tent directly to the left of us? Or how about those twin cannons hiking up a mountain ridge 50 yards due west? Or the ridge itself? Round mounds of grass shaped like…

Ronnie Shields: Boobies!

Wheeler: Don’t look over there. Look here. Focus… You’ll get it.

role models 4

Wheeler’s counterpart is Danny, the spokesperson for an energy drink who despises his job. Danny is at the point in life where he is afraid he is settling and he does not like it. Paul Rudd plays him as if he has a chip on his shoulder and he uses it to justify being a douche to everyone around him.  Obviously, the events in the film are designed to be a wake up call for him to adjust his attitude. Thankfully, before that happens we get an exchange like this:

Danny: Large black coffee.

Barista: Do you mean a venti?

Danny: No, I mean a large.

Barista: Venti is large.

Danny: No, venti is twenty. Large is large. In fact, tall is large and grande is Spanish for large. Venti is the only one that doesn’t mean large. It’s also the only one that’s Italian. Congratulations, you’re stupid in three languages.

Role Models movie image Jane LynchSturdy Wings is founded and run by addict turned do-gooder Gayle Sweeny, played by the acerbic Jane Lynch. She is in the movie for about ten minutes and steals every scene she appears in. Her lines are some of the most foul and most quotable and of course the most funny. Before she was drained of all her charm by “Glee” she made this movie a comic gem by her presence.  If “Big Bird” was a human, he’d look and move like Gayle (of course that language would never come out of his mouth).

The two kids that Danny and Wheeler get matched up with are nightmares themselves. Ronnie, is a pre teen firecracker with the mouth of a sailor. In a battle of wits with Wheeler, the kid wins most of the time. Bobb’e J. Thompson has personality to spare and he plays up the part so well that I wondered how they got away with the dialogue he has to speak. Maybe I’m a little sheltered but if I met a nine year old kid with a mouth like that, I’d be looking for child protective services to take him out of the environment he is being raised in.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse is so familiar a face in movies now a days, that it is hard to remember what a sensation he was in “Superbad”. This was his next role, playing the awkward Augie. A socially maladjusted teen, maybe a little old for the program but who needs the kind of attention a good pal would bring. You get a sense of what kind of fun friend he could be when he encourages Danny to use the phrase “Whispering Eye”.  I won’t spoil it for you if you have not yet seen this.

A lot happens in the film as the two losers try to meet their hours of public service but don’t quite get how this service works. There is admittedly a cliche heartwarming plot line that takes up the second act and will have few surprises but a bucket load of laughs. Sometimes the last part of a movie is a letdown for viewers. How can the characters live up to the potential that has been created in the first two thirds of the movie. “Role Models” answers that question by bringing in the greatest plot twist a classic rock fan like me could want. A special guest appearance by “Kiss”. OK, not really but  in spirit at least.

Role Models 1

It’s too complicated to explain so just let the joy of the moment of arrival wash over you. I cheered and laughed and decided right there that this was the greatest movie ever made! I don’t really think so but ask me at the right time and I could commit to that opinion again.

My guess is that most of you have seen the movie so this is a reminder that it should be experienced on a regular basis. It is full of odd ball characters and incredibly funny snark. If you have never watched it, get ready for a blast. If you get to Wheeler’s explanation of Paul Stanley’s lyrics of “Love Gun” and you don’t laugh, turn off the movie and good luck to you. Everybody else should get ready to “Rock and Roll all Night and Part of Every day.” (sic)

Richard Kirkham is a lifelong movie enthusiast from Southern California. While embracing all genres of film making, he is especially moved to write about and share his memories of movies from his formative years, the glorious 1970s. His personal blog, featuring current film reviews as well as his Summers of the 1970s movie project, can be found at Kirkham A Movie A Day.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Ant-Man is a lesser Marvel Property that is slowly being elevated in status for the second generation of Post Avenger’s Infinity Wars movies.  Paul Rudd’s introduction to the MCU came in the 2015 origin story, Ant-Man. He followed that up with a quick introduction and one major scene in Captain America: Civil War.  Interestingly, he was not a part of the Infinity War movie earlier this year.  In this film we get a reason why and a strong connection in one of the mid-credit sequences as to where things could be going in next year’s “Infinity War” entry. It’s beginning to look like Thanos is not a quantum physicist.

That future speculation however has little to do with this movie. Much like its origin story, the stakes for this plot seem befittingly smaller for Ant-Man. The world is not threatened by aliens or nuclear megalomaniacs, Rudd’s Scott Lang is recruited by original Ant-Man Hank Pym and his daughter Hope, in the belief that his earlier visit to the quantum realm, has left them a path to follow to recover Hank’s long lost wife, Janet. As usual, there are plenty of complications. Black market technology thieves want the material in the fugitive Pym’s lab. A mysterious costumed character, who ends up being referred to as “Ghost”,  also wants the technology for a more personal purpose. And since Scott has been under house arrest for violating those accords meant to contain the actions of “super” beings, his fan worship of Captain America has gotten him and Pym in trouble.

So the plot is a rescue mission with a few heists and chases mixed in. Scott has to try to finish his sentence which is almost up, without having contact with Pym and Hope. Evangeline Lily returns as Hope, and has donned the tech suit created by her father which turns her into “The Wasp”.  Clearly this is a comic duo in the making, with a strong romantic strain which gives the film some Tracy/Hepburn style sparks with interpersonal confrontations mixing with the plot mechanics. Very much like the first film, this is a comedy. Much more often than in that film however, the comedy is focused on peripheral characters, like Scott’s buddy and business partner Luis. Michael Peña returns as the loquacious thief turned security expert. In a hysterical sequence that probably goes on too long, although that was the point of the sequence, he provides a whole history of his relationship with Scott in his own unique style. Also providing some humor but of a more subtle and refined style is Kirkham family favorite Walton Goggins. He has moments of frustration and fear that generate priceless laughs at the right spots.

Michael Douglas gets to put on the costume as well in this film and it turns out that Michelle Pfeiffer continues to look like a movie star. She and Tom Cruise must have made the same deal with the devil. The two more mature actors only get a little bit to do in the film, but it is enough to justify having them there, and for any fans of theirs to come out and see the picture.

I hope someday that Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale will get to do a little more in this film series than mug for the camera, but at least their mugging is in tune with the warm humor that is usually found in Ant-Man’s family relations. This whole film plays like a palate cleanser for all the strum and d angst found in the two earlier 2018 Marvel movies. This is a comedy with action parts all over the place, rather than an action film with comedy inserted. I don’t mean that it is frivolous, but rather that it is interested in entertaining us in a very different manner than it’s older brothers and sisters. That makes sense since director Peyton Reed is a comedy film veteran, helming some solid humor filled hits back in the naughts, including “The Break-Up”, “Yes Man” and “Down with Love”. He replaced Edgar Wright on the first Ant-Man movie, and I know a lot of fans want to credit that films tone to the departed director. Fair enough, so Mr. Reed should probably get credit for the jokes that work, and a little blame for some of the bits that go on a little too long, even when they are funny.

There are plenty of effects shots that take advantage of the unique powers that the two heroes on this film possess. Stuff gets big and small at the right moment or not and the outcome works in making us laugh or adding a moments tensions to the proceedings. Because the film feels so much like a stand alone story, there may be Marvel fans out there who will give it a pass and just wait for “Captain Marvel” next year. I think that would be a mistake. There are some hints about the Infinity War at the end of the movie and in the credit sequences. Those hints should delight the fans of the main story and build even more anticipation.

Ant-Man

One of the things that made last years “Guardians of the Galaxy” so much fun was the tone of the story. Yes it did feature a threat to the entire universe and that is pretty heavy, but every character who was conflicted and depressed at times, usually had a sense of humor and the whole enterprise came off as fun rather than angst inducing. The big Marvel film from earlier this year “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is weighed down with sad backstory and depressing philosophy and while it was entertaining, it was also very heavy. This film and story manages to be closer to the Guardians end of the spectrum rather than the Avengers end. Even though there are Avengers tie ins, this is a lighter, more amusing take on the super hero mythos and a solid way to launch another character from the Marvel Universe.

My kids have accused me of having a man-crush on Paul Rudd. That is mostly because he stars in the greatest film of 2008, “Role Models“. He is a surprising choice for a super hero movie but a very reasonable one for a comedy, and there is a lot of comedy in this film. While he is not a physical specimen like Chris Helmsworth, Rudd is in good shape and has an appealing face that is average rather than chiseled. His selection reminds me of the decision made before the first Tim Burton Batman film, to cast comedic actor Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight. The suit will do the action material just fine, it is the story that takes place around those scenes that requires the right kind of choice and this one is a hit. Rudd has a sardonic quality to his voice that matches well with the disillusioned ex-con who goes to prison for being a crusader in a hacking scheme. He is given enough background for us to sympathize with him but we also know he is capable of making a bad choice or two.

The original “Ant-Man” is Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas. There is an early scene where the CGI budget for the film is largely spent on making Douglas his “Romancing the Stone” are once more. It is very effective and the change in appearance to more contemporary dates is almost startling. There is some exposition about how he lost his company to the apprentice that is now running things. Darren Cross (perhaps not the most subtle of name for a villain character ,-D.Cross) is a genius but has apparently given in to megalomania in part due to exposure to the processes required to develop the material that allows a man to reduce his size to that of an insect. That Pym still has contact with the company as it is reaching a critical deal point is a little hard to believe, but than it is typical of this format that the acolyte wants to impress the mentor as he passes him by. Corey Stoll is a familiar face from action films and TV shows and this is his chance to step into what would usually be the role played by Mark Strong, who was I guess, not available.

Some of the powers of “Ant-Man” are a bit strange. The ability to control ants sounds like one of the oddest super powers to come along. I’m surprised that President Obama did not have it on his list instead of being able to speak all languages. After all, ants outnumber humans substantially and if universal communication is important, you ought to start with the creature that is most prevalent on the planet (outside of termites anyway). The ant connection allows a lot of problems to be fixed in an interesting visual manner, and Scott Lang ( alias Ant-Man) manages to make a humorous connection to the creatures and even imbue one of them with enough emotional weight that what happens to one of billions of insects may actually matter to you. The speed with which he can change size and escape detection is also pretty cool. There is a technology though that seems to minimize this advantage and that makes a fight scene in the middle and end of the movie work a little better. Scott also has a couple of weapons that Hank has created for him that harness the molecular technology that powers the suit. Not much time is spent explaining them but when they are used they both create reasonable solutions to situations and amusing comedy bits as well.

Evangeline Lilly is Pym’s disaffected daughter and she will have an important role to play, but right now she is not really a romantic interest for Rudd as Scott. The ex-wife and mother of Scott’s daughter is played by Judy Greer, in her fourth movie of the summer season (Jurassic World, Tommorowland and Entourage) but as in those other films, she is underused ( and today just happens to be her birthday, so Happy Birthday Judy). Bobby Cannavale plays the cop/future step father to Scott’s child and he doesn’t get the suave role he had in “Spy” but he does get to do the comedy material pretty well. Michael Peña does comedy as well and the way he tells a story, reminds me too much of some people I know. Overall it is an interesting cast and the tone of the film is a good change of pace for these comic book films. It looks like there are some future adventures that we will not have to wait to long for, if you have not yet heard, you should sit through all of the credits.