The law of diminishing returns has not yet kicked in with that dry, improvising actor Paul Rudd, who played big roles in smaller comedies such as “Diggers” and “The Chateau” and “The Ten,” and smaller roles in big movies such as “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”
“Role Models” is a somewhat big movie with a big role for Rudd, so maybe he’s moving up. Rudd co-scripted “Role Models” with some of his mates from “The Ten” and “Wet Hot American Summer,” Ken Marino and director David Wain, resulting in a formula movie that frequently breaks into inspired routines.
Rudd and Seann William Scott play Danny and Wheeler, two aimless guys fired from their jobs hocking a ridiculous energy drink (although surely “ridiculous energy drink” is a redundancy). Because a little destruction of public property is involved, they are sentenced to 30 days in jail or community service.
The community service they draw is with a Big Brothers-styled organization called Sturdy Wings. Danny mentors teenage Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Wheeler draws the younger Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson).
The pairings make sense: both Danny and Augie are a little reserved and nerdy, while Wheeler and Ronnie are way, way too far off the leash.
The main comic material for the second half of the movie comes out of Augie’s membership in a role-playing group called LAIRE (for live action role playing explorers), people who dress up in quasi-medieval garb and go around in parks staging battles and calling each other “good sir” and “milady.” (If you saw the documentary “Monster Camp,” you know what this is about.)
Shy Augie comes to life in this milieu, a situation that Danny initially sees as pathetic but eventually (of course) goes along with. And by the way, along with the unbeatable comedy of nerds bashing each other with foam swords, understand that Augie is played by McLovin from “Superbad.” That’s a golden combination.
Other good people in the cast include Jane Lynch, that brilliant stalwart of Christopher Guest’s ensemble, who really cuts loose here as the director of Sturdy Wings; Elizabeth Banks, who’s had an interesting year (she was Laura Bush in “W.” and one of the filmmakers in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”); and A.D. Miles, Joe Lo Truglio, and Marino, all veterans of related comedy groups.
Rudd and Scott work surprisingly well together considering their different styles. If it has some peaks and valleys, “Role Models” lands enough solid jokes to make a good night out. And to keep Paul Rudd working.