Funny but formulaic, "Role Models" is stuck in adolescence.
Considering the dozens of recent comedies starring grown men acting like children ("Old School," "Knocked Up," et al.), it's surprising that "Role Models" is still one of only a few to combine juvenile men with actual juveniles.
We know these archetypes well: Wheeler (Cottage Grove's Seann William Scott), the self-obsessed, sex-obsessed bachelor with far too much energy and far too little ambition, and Danny (Paul Rudd), the cynical thirtysomething whose relationship with the beautiful Beth (Hollywood's current "it" girl Elizabeth Banks) is endangered by his miserable attitude and stuck-in-a-rut career.
What separates the misses in this genre ("You, Me, and Dupree") from the hits ("School of Rock") is the ability to inject credible emotions into incredible circumstances. In "Role Models," the set-up is the community service to which Wheeler and Danny are sentenced after a particularly disastrous day in their paid jobs as representatives for the energy drink Minotaur. At the mentoring agency Sturdy Wings, Danny and Wheeler are assigned their "littles" under the watchful eye of founder Gayle Sweeny, hilariously played by Jane Lynch ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin").
Much of the cast (including Rudd and Banks) appeared in writer/director David Wain's 2001 breakthrough film, "Wet Hot American Summer." Whether Wain succeeds here in making us care about the characters depends in large part on your comedic taste. Most of the tender moments between mentor and mentee are bookended by profanity and crude sex jokes. You might laugh when Wheeler instructs young Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson) in the art of inconspicuously checking out women, but it's a little disturbing, too.
More encouraging is Danny's mentoring of Augie Farks, a caped übernerd obsessed with a medieval times role-playing club (Christopher Mintz-Plasse of "Superbad," forever doomed to be known as McLovin). It remains to be seen whether Mintz-Plasse can play anything other than a pubescent geek, but it's certainly a role at which he excels, and one that Rudd (who also co-wrote the screenplay) perfectly balances.
Although it delivers a consistent dose of chuckles, you can't help but wonder if "Role Models" falls short of its potential. It might, in fact, benefit from having a mentor of its own.