When you tell people that the comedy “Role Models” features a character who plays a live action fantasy game that involves dressing up like warriors, elves and wizards, it always gets a big laugh. It says a lot, then, that the actual gag in the movie doesn't. A little laugh, maybe, but nothing compared to the screen time “Role Models” gives it. Starring Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott as unlikely mentors for troubled kids, the movie is too broad and predictable to capitalize on its good ideas, more intent on delivering a rapid litany of one-liners and crude language and situations meant for shock value. The only thing truly shocking is how many opportunities a canned comedy like this can miss.
As is likely for any movie rewritten by different authors twice (the last time by Rudd), some of the story details in “Role Models” are fuzzy, but the gist is that two schmucks (Rudd and Scott) find themselves doing community service to avoid jail time, becoming big brothers to a couple of kids in a youth mentoring program. Scott's character, Wheeler, is a crude womanizer, so he is paired with an even cruder kid (Bobb'e J. Thompson) who's like Gary Coleman with a foul mouth and a mean-spirited sense of humor. Rudd's Danny, who just got dumped by his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks), is socially allergic, so he lands a misfit (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) whose favorite pastime is pretending to be an ancient warrior.
With mismatched comedic elements and a paint-by-numbers story structure, “Role Models” has the undignified trait of being both predictable and hard to follow. The men and kids are antagonistic to each other at first, a situation the movie overcomes with a handy montage, followed by throwing them a couple of curveballs of bad luck that set up the goofy finale. This last act feels more like a completely separate movie, about helping the socially awkward kid fight his way back into the fantasy group. It's called Live Action Interactive Role-playing Explorers, or LAIRE, and it appears to be real — you can Google the Web site, which happens to be lot more entertaining than this painfully mixed-up comedy. (R) 95 min. S