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.
Our Idiot Brother (C-). I really wanted to like this movie, but it just didn’t work out between us. Paul Rudd (Clueless), whom I usually like in just about anything, plays Ned, an amiable doofus who lives on an organic farm with his horrible girlfriend and who spends a few months in the slammer after he sells marijuana to a uniformed police officer. When Ned gets out of the pokey, he finds he’s no longer welcome back at the farm and has to go sofa surfing with each of his three sisters in turn. There’s unhappily married and unbearably frumpy Liz (Emily Mortimer, Match Point), tightly wound and unbearably witchy Miranda (Elizabeth Banks, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), and free-spirited lesbian-but-not-always Natalie (Zooey Deschanel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). Ned’s utter lack of guile and penchant for saying exactly what he thinks causes all sorts of angst for his sisters, and I imagine the actors had fun playing these extreme types. But it’s not that entertaining, and certainly not very funny, to watch. And of course, being an R-rated comedy, it’s very and unnecessarily crude and vulgar. I don’t think I laughed once until they started playing some blooper reels during the closing credits.
I Love You, Man (B). You probably already know the set-up for this movie: the always-entertaining Paul Rudd (This Is 40) plays a guy who gets engaged, only to discover that he has no close male friends to be his groomsmen, much less his best man. He gets increasingly concerned about this state of affairs, which eventually leads him to befriend a slacker dude played by Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), which friendship ironically threatens the very engagement that inspired it. In short, it’s a romantic comedy about male friendship instead of an ordinary romance. It had very few clunker moments, and I enjoyed it throughout. But I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had seen it in a crowded and spirited theater instead of at a Saturday morning matinee with about 3 other people in the theater. Oh, and it should go without saying that the “R” rating is amply justified by the rampant vulgar language. I wonder if these movies would do as well–or even better–at the box office if they cleaned up their act a little bit…
Role Models (B). Okay, there’s no denying that there is lots to disapprove of in this movie. Gratuitous nudity. Vast quantities of crude and obscene language. Most of it said to, in front of, or by children. It is rated R for a reason. All that said, I laughed a lot at this movie. Paul Rudd (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) delivers another solid comedic performance playing Danny, a guy in his mid-30’s who makes his living pushing an energy drink called Minotaur on schoolchildren under the guise of a “stay off drugs” campaign. He loathes his life, consequently driving away his attractive lawyer girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games) and getting into a legal jam that requires him and his partner Wheeler (Seann William Scott, American Pie) to put in 150 hours of community service or go to jail. They wind up in a Big Brothers type program, in which Danny mentors a nerd who’s into live-action Dungeons & Dragons in the park every weekend, and Wheeler draws a younger black kid with an amazingly foul mouth. The gal who runs the program is a crazy ex-junkie played by the irreplaceable Jane Lynch (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), who made my jaw drop almost every time she opened her mouth. Not for all tastes, but I think you’ll like it if you liked, oh, I don’t know . . . The 40-Year-Old Virgin?
Knocked Up (C). I can’t give this movie the lavish praise that my co-reviewer The Bleacher Bum did, but it’s not entirely a waste of time either. The premise is not very novel: thanks to a lot of alcohol, a successful and gorgeous TV personality (Katherine Heigl, TV’s Grey’s Anatomy) has a one-night stand with a flabby slacker (Seth Rogen, The 40-Year Old Virgin). She ends up in the family way and decides to keep the baby and see if she can make it work with the slacker, and we are off to the races in another “can the love of a good woman redeem an unworthy man?” tale. Personally, I did not find the comic bits all that funny, and the movie as a whole was more serious and less crude than I was expecting. In fact, the serious parts were more effective than the comic ones, and I found myself more interested in the subplot about the marital difficulties suffered by the TV star’s high-strung sister (Leslie Mann, The 40-Year Old Virgin) and her more laid-back husband (Paul Rudd, The 40-Year Old Virgin). But the subplot disappears from view as the movie drags on for over two hours, which is just too long. Tolerable, but there are better options out there.
Knocked Up is an instant comedy classic. It is the type of cult comedy that usually only becomes popular after the DVD release. See Van Wilder. The movie stars Katherine Heigl (TV’s Grey’s Anatomy), Seth Rogen (The 40-Year Old Virgin), Leslie Mann (Big Daddy-she was the witness in the classic cross-examination scene), and Paul Rudd (yes-Virgin). Knocked Up is about a drunken hook-up and the resulting pregnancy between Heigl (professional and career-driven) and Rogen (classic slacker). The majority of the movie centers on the relationship between the expectant mother and father and preparing for the baby. Anyone that has had a child or a one-night stand can surely relate. The movie provides a lot of laughs and a good time. Except for Dan Quayle, I can’t see anyone not truly enjoying this flick.
Bleacher Bum Movie Scale
The Shape of Things. (B-) Although this film is about dating and relationships, it is not a “date movie.” The director is well-known for making misanthropic movies, and this one is no sunshiny portrayal of human nature. Nerdy, slobby English student Adam (Paul Rudd) meets quirky, free-spirited art student Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), and for some reason she agrees to go out with him. Next thing you know, she is starting to make him over–new haircut, new wardrobe, contacts, etc. She also starts to come between him and his best friends, Phil and Jenny. Further complicating matters, although Jenny (the fetching Gretchen Mol) is (unhappily) engaged to the boorish Phil, she has been not-very-secretly nursing a crush on clueless Adam for a long time, and the newly-remade Adam may be too much for her to resist. Honesty is in for a rough road in this film, and manipulation is the order of the day. You were warned!