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The surprisingly good lesson ‘Role Models’ conveys through LARPing

Hail Zanthia!

By Adam Pockross
Role Models (2008)

Role Models is probably not remembered as much for its genre bona fides as it is for the largely inappropriate humor spewed from a vulgar scene-stealing grade-schooler, but we’d swear to Queen Esplanade herself that it's got a proper fantasy bent. And that’s got everything to do with the celebration of LARPing in David Wain’s 2008 not-quite-a-fantasy film, which arrives on Peacock this month.
Of course, in the film, LARP, aka a live-action role-playing game, is referred to as LAIRE, aka Live Action Interactive Role-playing Explorers. But it’s basically the same thing — a bunch of people dressing up in medieval garb, speaking Olde English, and recreating ye ole knighthood battles of yore. And it’s the only thing in life that makes shy teen Augie Farks (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) come out of his depressive shell. Fantastical escapism at its finest.

After crashing a (genre AF) Minotaur truck (named after the energy drink he schleps), Paul Rudd’s Danny escapes jail by being court assigned to be Augie’s “big,” a Big Brother-type role model in the Sturdy Wings program, a do-gooder service started by perhaps-not-so-good-but-definitely-funny Gayle Sweeny (Jane Lynch). Danny’s much-lewder partner in crime, Wheeler (Seann William Scott), also gets busted, and is assigned to mentor his own “little,” Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson), the aforementioned scene-stealing grade schooler. Hilarity ensues.

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While Wheeler and vulgar little Ronnie inappropriately bond over their shared admiration of female body parts, Danny and Augie find common ground on more medieval ground: the LARPing field (or is it the pitch?). During one such melee (match? tourney?), Augie even honors himself by killing the great (in his fascist little mind, at least) King Argotron (Ken Jeong), but the sniveling king refuses to admit as much. Danny stands up to the little king, and ends up getting both he and Augie unjustly booted from the realm. So now the poor kid’s got nothing.

At such a low, we find Augie skulking around a family dinner attended by Danny, who quickly realizes that the kid’s mom (Kerri Kenney) and her boyfriend (Ken Marino) are a huge part of Augie’s problem. They haven’t supported him in any way, and are particularly mean when it comes to his “fairyland” LARP hobby. While Danny has been mostly moping about his own problems (partly of the legal variety, partly of the Elizabeth Banksian) up till now, he finally sees beyond his own nose and realizes this kid truly could use someone in his corner.

So he tells Augie’s parents off, and gives his “little” some big-time advice: “Don’t listen to them, alright? Do what makes you happy. You wanna wear a cape? Wear a cape. You wanna wear a suit of armor? Who gives a s***?”

In the end, LAIRE brings our disparate heroes together in support of Augie. They come up with KISS costumes that any LARP or glam rock fan would be envious of… and their loyal steed can’t be beat: the Minotaur mobile itself. Indeed, the warriors of Kiss-My-Anthia go on to victory, and Augie slays the evil king. Auggie becomes king to Esplanade’s queen, and they all live happily ever after. Hail Zanthia!

Though LARP might seem like a punching bag of a comedic storyline, placed in a bawdy comedy just for laughs at the expense of people who really just want to find their own place to fit in, it also provides the heart and soul of the movie. LARP brings Role Models’ main players together to fight for Augie’s honor, and brings heart to a film that might otherwise come off as mean. And it does so while delivering a pretty darn important moral lesson, as well: Do what makes you happy.

Granted, it’s probably not a great idea to take too many life lessons from raunchy comedies. And philosophically speaking, your happiness probably shouldn’t be pursued if it takes away from another’s. But still, it’s something Augie needed to hear. And sometimes that’s enough.

Role Models is now streaming on Peacock!