I don’t really have a problem with L.A.R.P.ing. I remember when I heard about it a few years ago, though. I think it was on MTV, of all places. That True Life documentary series they have? Yeah, on there.

I thought it was kind of weird at that time. But, in truth, it’s really no more or less weird than any other hobby. It’s dress-up and make-believe. When you’re a kid you do it all the time. But I guess you reach a certain age and that’s no longer “socially acceptable?” I don’t get it.

I mean, if you participate in a Renaissance Festival, than that’s okay. And if you’re a Civil War re-enactor, that’s okay… But L.A.R.Ping? How uncool!

Please. Hypocrisy, anyone?

I have to admit, however, that I was surprised by just how much L.A.R.P.ing was built into the storyline of Role Models. As you’ve probably gathered from the trailer, Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays Auggie Farks and L.A.R.P.ing is his main pursuit. I thought it was just supposed to be an odd character trait. I wasn’t expecting the whole third act to center around a L.A.R.P. event or to bear witness to several choreographed battle sequences. Toss in a handful of references to KISS and you have on of the most idiosyncratic comedies ever to slip into theaters under the guise of a by-the-book Hollywood laugher.

Seriously. It’s like the writers of the movie read from a list of disparate topics and asked themselves “Which of these can we tie together and still make them funny?” It feels like a improv exercise that grew legs and turned into a big-budget studio comedy. In other words, it shouldn’t have worked, but it totally did.

A lot of the credit goes to the film’s performances. Paul Rudd plays Danny, a misanthropic, borderline clinically depressed pitchman for an energy drink company. Danny’s in a rut. 35 and thinking that he should have accomplished more with his life. After an impuslive marriage proposal to his girlfriend (2008 MVP Elizabeth Banks) that rings false, she breaks up with him, moves out and Danny ends up on a self-destructive jag that causes him to lose his job and lands him in an after school program doing community service as part of a plea deal to keep him out of prison.

Rudd plays Danny with a level of defeated exhaustion, he can barely muster the bile to raise a sneer. You can see why his girlfriend would dump him. He picks fights with everyone and is generally draining to be around. Rudd does a great job of thoroughly inhabiting a very unlikeable character.

But we shouldn’t forget his partner in crime Wheeler, played by Sean Williams Scott. Wheeler is Danny’s co-worker and ends up in the same after-school program as an accessory to Danny’s outburst. Scott is very winning as Wheeler, playing him as a little thick but casual and worry-free. I like Scott, but he needs to give up on this idea of being an action hero. Between Bulletproof Monk, The Rundown and The Dukes of Hazzard, he’s much better off playing to his strengths and letting his natural charisma do the work for him.

The supporting performances in the film are good, but threaten to overshadow things a little bit. A lot of focus is placed on Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s character and that’s fine, but this kid is headed dangerously toward Anthony Michael Hall territoriy if he keeps it up with all the socially inept nerd roles. I guess he has a sense of humor about it, but perception is reality. It won’t be long before this is the only kind of role audiences will accept him in.

Bobb’e J. Thompson plays the foul-mouthed and breast-obsessed Ronnie and performs the role ably. I just wish it wasn’t such a cliche – the smart alex black kid. It’s kind of funny that he continually insults Rudd’s character by referencing Ben Affleck movies, but otherwise, it’s all shock-value and that wears thin fast.

Another supporting performance I enjoyed at first, but got tired of quickly was Jane Lynch as an ego-centric former addict and the director of the after-school program Rudd and Scott’s characters have been court-ordered to attend. Normally I look forward to Lynch’s performances. She was devistatingly effective as the store manager in The 40 Year-Old Virgin and you get the sense they were trying to do the same thing here, but they overuse her.

But these are small complaints. Role Models is a very effective comedy. Really more effective than it has any right to be. Several laugh out loud moments and an ending the gets sillier and sillier without ever coming off the rails. I had a good time with this one.

For more discussion about Role Models, be sure to tune into The Triple Feature, recording live tonight at 9PM CST at TalkShoe.com. In addition to Role Models, we’ll be covering JCVD, Synecdoche, New York and Soul Men. If you have a question for the group before the show starts, send it to us at group@thetriplefeature.com and we’ll answer it during the show! I’m really looking forward to tonight’s show. I think it’s going to be a good one. So be sure to tune in live!

See you there!

↓ Transcript
I liked Role Models. But I’m worried word-of-mouth won’t be very strong.

Why’s that?

Because the movie’s plot basically centers around L.A.R.P.ing

What’s L.A.R.P.ing?

L.ive A.ction R.ole P.lay

It’s a game where people get together and physically act out their characters actions. It’s typically in some kind of fantasy setting.

Kind of like Dungeons & Dragons for people who like to dress up.

Yeah, I see what you’re saying about the poor word-of-mouth.

Listening to you, I already consider you 18% less attractive just for being able to recite facts about L.A.R.P.ing.