It takes some brains to make a good dumb comedy. Paul Rudd, who has been the best thing in too many films that ranged from dumb, to awful, to wildly uneven, has co-created a film that manages to insult the intelligence of its characters without insulting the intelligence of its audience too badly.
I could have done with less emphasis on the inherent hilarity of hearing an angry little kid use bad language and make sexually precocious comments. And some of the double entendres were so nudge-nudge obvious they were closer to single and a fraction. But some good lines and sharply observed characters make it above average for its genre.
Rudd and Seann William Scott play Danny and Wheeler, who work for a company that sells a soft drink called Minotaur by visiting schools for a phony “don’t do drugs” talk that is really just a way to push their soda. Wheeler wears a Minotaur suit and Danny half-heartedly tells the kids to drink Minotaur instead of doing drugs and then they drive off in their Minotaur-obile. This is all just fine with Wheeler, a walking id who just wants to get high and have sex. But Danny once wanted more from life and when his increasing bitterness causes his lawyer girlfriend to leave him, seeing the Minotaur-obile towed away is just one indignity too many. He objects, leading to arrests, leading to community service at Sturdy Wings, a Big Brother-style place run by a former drug addict (Jane Lynch). Each is assigned a “Little.” Wheeler gets a precocious kid (Bobb’e J. Thompson) who swears all the time and accuses everyone of racism and child abuse. He is also way too fascinated with feminine anatomy, a trait they manage to bond over. And Danny gets Augie (“Superbad” McLovin’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a cape-wearing nerd whose life revolves around a Medieval-ish role-playing game
Director David Wain manages the tricky balance between having some fun with the conventions of the genre without getting mean about it. Yes, everyone learns a few lessons about self-respect and relationships (and sword-fighting) but when they do it in medieval role-playing gear inspired by a rock band, it’s a lot of fun to watch. Note, however, that a child actor’s bad language and sexual obsessions are more disturbing than funny and raise serious questions about whether the laws protecting child performers are adequate and adequately enforced.