Ant-Man (B). How cool is it to be Paul Rudd? He’s not a megastar or a megahunk like Brad Pitt or Bradley Cooper or Channing Tatum. He generally plays ordinaryish guys in comedies or romantic comedies. And yet, he’s gotten to play opposite quite a few of Hollywood’s loveliest leading ladies. I present my case:
And now he gets to play a Marvel superhero opposite Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug). Admittedly, their characters spend their scenes together sparring instead of smooching, but still. Anyhoo, this is an entertaining and mostly lighthearted superhero movie in which Rudd’s character gets a suit that lets him shrink to ant size and some other equipment that lets him communicate with and control his ant minions. Michael Douglas (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) also stars as the inventor of the suit. Michael Peña (Fury) steals every scene he’s in as Rudd’s motormouthed sidekick Luis. Watch carefully and you’ll see Captain America’s girlfriend in one scene.
They Came Together (B-). This spoof of romantic-comedy clichés is occasionally amusing and certainly better than hack parodies like Scary Movie, but nevertheless I thought it eventually wore out its welcome—which is a bad sign for a movie that’s only 83 minutes long. Paul Rudd (Role Models) and Amy Poehler (Baby Mama) play Joel and Molly, who are out having dinner with another couple (cute Ellie Kemper from TV’s The Office and Bill Hader (Adventureland)). The other couple makes the mistake of asking Molly and Joel how they met, and the rest of the movie is an extended flashback of their entire relationship, which incorporates every rom-com cliché you can think of. I can’t deny I laughed out loud several times at the over-the-topness of it, but there was a little too much unfunny vulgarity for me to give it an unqualified recommendation. Still, if you are a fan of romantic comedies and don’t mind a hard R rating, you’ll probably get a kick out of this one.
Prince Avalanche (B-). Blink and you’ll miss this little indie flick, which I believe is showing in a single theater in the Dallas area. It’s an amiable little movie starring Paul Rudd (This Is 40), who must be one of the hardest working actors in show biz, and Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild), who looks a lot like a young Jack Black (High Fidelity). The year is 1988. Alvin and Lance, played by Rudd and Hirsch, are out in the middle of nowhere in central Texas, painting center stripes on some lost highway. At night, they camp by the side of road. Alvin catches fish and squirrels for dinner and pines for his girlfriend, who is Lance’s sister. Lance talks about going to town on the weekends and “partying” with girls. They bond. They fight. They rarely see another soul. It’s only 94 minutes long, so it doesn’t really wear out its welcome. I kinda liked it. Hard to believe it was directed by David Gordon Green (Your Highness).
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s Apocalyptic offering is profane, narcissistic, campy, and yes, funny. For me, it succeeded best as a campy horror flick. The premise is simple: James Baruchel visits his buddy Rogen in Hollywood and the two attend a party hosted by James Franco. All the actors play themselves. Also attending the party are: Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Paul Rudd, David Krumholtz, Aziz Ansari, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kevin Hart, Martin Starr and Emma Watson. The Apocalypse happens during the party. Some people are immediately sucked up to Heaven in a tunnel of blue light; others fall into a crevice that opens up in front of Franco’s house. The rest (all male with the exception of Emma Watson for a short time in a funny ax wielding performance) are left to navigate the post-Apocalyptic world complete with strange anatomically (enhanced) correct monsters as well as limited food, water and resources. The actors make fun of themselves but primarily the humor is pure frat boy (read: pot jokes, sex jokes, flatulence jokes, masturbation jokes) and the movie drags a bit. Confession: I suspect you will find this movie more funny than I did if you are up on all the roles these actors have played. The ending is bizarre–in a “we-didn’t-know-how-to-end-the-movie” kind of way. The suspense is well timed. This movie deserves its hard R rating. Don’t take your mom or your children!
This Is 40 (B). Well, when you sign up for a film by director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), you expect it to be vulgar and full of characters who swear like sailors. But this movie features not only Apatow’s lovely wife Leslie Mann (17 Again) but also his two little girls Maude and Iris, so you think maybe he’ll dial the vulgarity down a notch. Nope; the f-bombs fly as fast and furious as ever. Anyhoo, the movie is about Pete (the ubiquitous Paul Rudd, Wanderlust) and Debbie (Mann), the married couple seen briefly in Apatow’s 2007 film Knocked Up. Pete and Debbie are both turning 40, their finances are crumbling, and their marriage is fraying badly. Although IMDb.com calls the movie a comedy, there are long serious stretches, and Pete and Debbie have some very ugly and unpleasant fights. At 2 hours and 14 minutes, it is really too long. And yet, there are some poignant moments and some comic ones that made the film at least somewhat worthwhile for me. Also, it is amazing to see how many familiar faces Apatow managed to cast in supporting roles, such as John Lithgow (2010), Albert Brooks (Broadcast News), Megan Fox (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), and the hilarious Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids). McCarthy has a pretty funny (and, of course, profane) tirade in the movie, but during the closing credits they show an outtake of that scene in which McCarthy cracked Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann up and had me positively crying with laughter. Anyway, this movie is not going to be for everyone (Metacritic.com gives it only 58/100 at this writing), but I liked it enough, here and there, to justify a decent grade.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (B+). Possible alternative title: “And You Think You Had It Tough in High School.” This is the story of Charlie, a newly minted high-school freshman who has struggled with some sort of mental-health issues in the recent past. He looks to be headed for a lonely four years, but he gets adopted by a group of misfit seniors led by Patrick (Ezra Miller, City Island), who is gay, and his stepsister Sam (Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), who has a troubled past and a dark secret. Oh, and it soon comes to light that Charlie’s best friend recently committed suicide. Suffice to say, this is a very dark and heavy movie, and given the central themes of mental illness, suicide, and sexual abuse, I think the PG-13 rating may be misleading. Aside from a few moments that I couldn’t quite buy, I thought this movie was very well done. Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) does a good job as the introverted Charlie. Several other recognizable actors show up, such as Paul Rudd (Our Idiot Brother) as an inspiring English teacher and Mae Whitman (TV’s Arrested Development) as a Buddhist control freak who gets a crush on Charlie. Well worth seeing, but don’t expect to walk out smiling.
Wanderlust (B-). Paul Rudd (The Shape of Things) and Jennifer Aniston (Leprechaun) star as a married New York City couple in this fish-out-of-water comedy. When George loses his job in NYC, the couple has to downsize, and on their way to stay with George’s brother in Atlanta they spend one night in a Georgia bed-and-breakfast that actually turns out to be a hippie commune called Elysian Fields or something like that. George’s brother being an unbearable jerk, the couple quickly decides to return to Elysium and give the hippie life a try. I have to give it an above-average grade, because I did laugh out loud a few times at the outrageous goings-on at the commune, and especially the antics of their leader/guru Seth (Justin Theroux, Megamind). Also, I have to give a shout-out to Linda Lavin of TV’s Alice, who is quite funny in a small role as the couple’s real-estate agent in NYC. But the film gets plenty of demerits for its unrelenting vulgarity. A few scenes in particular go way over the top in their cartoonish coarseness, and I have to disagree with the director’s apparent belief that these dumpster dives are the height of hilarity. I can’t really recommend it, but if you can stand the gutter talk you might get some laughs out of it like I did.