By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
This week's movie most likely to become a home video hit is Role Models. Then viewers can fast-forward through the achingly dumb stuff to enjoy isolated episodes of gloriously stupid comedy.
Role Models turns the Daddy Day Care theme of family-friendly fun into frat-friendly raunch, a daring notion considering the fact that 12-year-old Bobb'e J. Thompson plays a munchkin with a sailor's mouth and libido.
During the movie I wondered why child advocates squashed the release of Hounddog, with Dakota Fanning feigning rape in service of a meaningful plot while Thompson's aggressively sexual profanity — dished out to and received from adults — gets a free pass. Either demand on children could be construed as abuse. There's a double standard here of fame, and perhaps race, that's uncomfortable, to say the least.
Thompson plays Ronnie, a hyperactive kid forced to attend the Sturdy Wings after-school program, run by an ex-drug addict (Jane Lynch) who may still be dipping into her stash. Another Sturdy Winger is Augie, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse as a nerdier version of the nerd he nailed in Superbad. Both desperately need father figures.
Instead, they get Danny (Paul Rudd) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott), two miscreants sentenced to community service after vandalizing a school. Danny is a grouch dealing with being jilted by his girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks); Wheeler is an unrepentant party boy.
Not exactly Big Brothers material, proven by Danny ridiculing Augie's infatuation with medieval role-playing games, and Wheeler's bonding with Ronnie over the sexual connotations of Love Gun by the rock band Kiss. Those descriptions cover most of the jokes in Role Models, with nudity, innuendo and drug references tossed in for bad measure.
Then something worthwhile happens. Each gag pounded into the ground in the first 80 minutes becomes the setup for a final reel in which Augie's fantasy world and Wheeler's Kiss obsession collide. The men rediscover their inner children in an oddball climax that is surprisingly nimble, and the kids discover their inner selves. Is it long overdue but funny? You bet your @#$.
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.