Jan 09

(Fantasy) Role (Playing) Models

Do You See + FT5 comments • 466 views

Role Models is another “crude with a heart” manchild US comedy, which combines sex obsession, with thirty-something slackerdom and Live Action Roleplaying to ramshackle but generally amusing effect.

You read that right. The plot of Role Models is simple. Two energy drink salesmen fall foul of the law and are sentenced to community service with two difficult kids. The sex obsessed optimist is shackled with a foul mouthed kid* and the cynic gets the LARPer. Initially it seems that the dressing up and hitting with foam swords is going to be a few throwaway jokes at best, but slowly but surely it becomes the heart of the film. In the end a movie like this needs some sort of climatic sequence where the disgraced Role Models get to prove that they have helped their wards. I assumed that would be simply to get the geeky kid to talk to the girl he fancies. Instead it takes a sidestep into taking Live Action Role Playing as a serious, rewarding and fun pastime.

I am not sure I completely approve. As Tom says in I Was A Goblin here there are real problems with LARPing, which in the film are compounded by a large number of the mostly adult participants being dicks. The film trades in a “be what you want to be” philosophy which survives because we don’t see the protagonist at High School where one assumes his cape wearing would leave him for some serious bullying. And yet a mainstream film, with such a cynical core, embracing something as – well – silly as LARPing also rings false. Perhaps it is that the ending of the film has exactly the same shape as the end of School of Rock, including all the disapproving parents turning up at just the right time to implausibly realise that dressing up and hitting people with foam swords is actually empowering and cool. Cos it isn’t. Being in a rock band may be silly, but involves skill, music and can make you money. Dressing up as an elf puts you on a hiding to nothing.

This doesn’t stop the film probably being Paul Rudd’s** biggest chance at mainstream fame since I Could Never Be Your Woman went straight to video***. It won’t change anyone minds about Seann William Scott’s skills as an actor (my mind doesn’t need changing, I have always liked him), and as ever with this genre the female characters are humourless or mental. But while we get all the depressing Oscar films out of the way you could do worse.

*The foulmouthed half pint played by Bobb’e J.Thompson gets very short shrift despite being the funniest think in it. But then his funny schtick is being a nine year old with and awesome grasp at swearing and sexual precocity which is funny for a throwaway character but cannot continue when we meet his thoroughly decent single mother who clearly cannot be to blame for any of these actions.

**On the way to the cinema I considered Rudd’s career compared with his comic counterparts in the 40 Year Old Virgin etc. And it struck me that these days Rudd is too attractive to be a leading man. He still suffers from being the cute boy in Clueless. The person he struck me to be most similarly saddled with slightly too good looks (and too big chin) was Ben Affleck, which Role Models acknowleges and uses to its advantage.

***I Could Never Be Your Woman, on paper, looked like it might be a winner. A rom-com with Michelle Pfeiffer at 47 playing a 40-year-old TV writer in love with Paul Rudd (36) playing a twenty eight year old actor. Set in Hollywood, filmed in Pinewood and stuffed with British comedy actors, it was Amy Heckerling’s stab at writing a film about how Hollywood hates aging. It went straight to video, partially due to its own age hating ways, but mainly I believe that it was due to not having the White Town song on the soundtrack.


  1. 1
    logged out Tracer Hand on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Also he’s not sufficiently haunted. Every leading man should look as though he has a secret, hopefully more painful than a habit of doing the whites and the darks in the same laundry load.

  2. 2
    Pete Baran on 9 Jan 2009 #

    True. Role Models does give him his best stab at this just because he is as blackly cynical and borderline depressed as the worst of a British sitcom character. This makes his redemption unrealistic and cheesy and would sink the whole film if said redemption did not involve hitting nerds with swords whilst dressed as Kiss.

  3. 3
    Matthew on 10 Jan 2009 #

    As a committed LARPer in my university days I think I resent your tone! LARPing may be a pretty silly activity, but let’s face it, it’s not much sillier than kicking a ball around for 90 minutes while dressed in a pair of shorts. Bookish nerds need exercise too.

  4. 4
    Matthew on 10 Jan 2009 #

    Also, I simply can’t believe you’ve dissed getting dressed up as a fantasy hero and brandishing rubber weapons at people in the same week that everyone is raving about “Stand and Deliver” making it to #1 in the charts. The irony!

  5. 5
    pete on 11 Jan 2009 #

    Sorry Matthew, my line on LARPing has always seen it as an inapproapriate rump of role-playing. The point, as far as I understood when I did it as a teen, of playing role-playing games was to imagine a world where you playing a character wholly unlike yourself (or some sort of Mary-Sue hero if you will). LARPing brings this into harsh relief, you may still be pretending to be the most skilled elven warrior in the land, but you are still the spotty teen with a foam sword, whose actual physical lack of prowess will mark against the awesomeness of the elven warrior. I see LARPing as anti-imagination, turning one of the few truly intellectually creative passtimes into another battle of jocks and nerds.

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