Whether or not you enjoy Paul Rudd as a leading man (I do, I love you, man) or as strong support (especially when it’s to the Ron Burgundies of the world), he’s kind of become unavoidable. He’s on the big screen six times a year, he’s on your TV (Parks and Recreation, Louie), and of course, Netflix has a generous number of his lesser-known films to fix your cravings in between.
The best recent Rudd film added was 2011’s Our Idiot Brother, a comedy about a dim idealist, Ned, who messes up his sisters’ lives due to severe foot-in-mouth disease. Rudd nails the stereotype he’s asked to portray and delivers in each scene, whether it finds him mercifully (in his mind) but foolishly (reality check) selling weed to a uniformed police officer or bickering with his bitter hippie ex (Kathryn Hahn), and the trite dialogue is actually a bright spot, engendering genuine laughs.
It’s basically an extended Portlandia sketch in terms of social commentary, but at a 90-minute run time, the joke rarely runs thin. His sisters (played by Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer) are delightful in their own specific ways, and the plot device of Ned’s longing to get his dog back keeps the movie moving forward efficiently.
Next pick takes us back to 2006 for Diggers, which is not about gold diggers (neither Jamie Foxx’s kind nor Billy Crystal’s) but about clam diggers (not the pants, the fishermen). Rudd plays Hunt, brother to Maura Tierney’s Gina, the two of whom lose their father to a mysterious boat accident Hunt may or may not have been able to prevent. The script, written by Ken Marino (Party Down), offers identifiable characters trying to scrape a living in Long Island in 1975.
Although Rudd’s flirtation with Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) as a ’70s babe is amusing (especially before they exchange words), it’s the husband-wife dynamic between Marino and actress Sarah Paulson that presents a curiously believable romance you (mostly) want to believe in, despite Marino’s expectedly loud antics and outbursts. We’re also treated to occasional glimpses of iconic TV clips from 1975. And, c’mon, it’s Paul Rudd as a scruffy fisherman who casually but artistically documents his small-town life in Polaroids. That alone is enough to overlook goofy druggy epiphanies like, “The opinion of the majority does not equate to the truth.”
Then there’s 2003’s Two Days, which positions itself as a genuine this-is-the-end moment for Paul Rudd’s character, Paul Miller, who brings in a documentary crew to film his final days before his planned suicide. It sounds dark, but oddly, the indifference Miller feels for the friends he lines up to say goodbye to is too redundant to be gloomy. There are a lot of throwaway scenes that add little to the film aside from awkward acting, particularly actress Stacey Travis’s big-eyed come-on.
But Adam Scott (Party Down) is ravishingly obnoxious as the documentary’s pushy director, Stu, and it’s worth watching for the artsy scenes in which the audience is directly asked to stop everything and marvel at Paul Miller, the actor. It seems that director Sean McGinly, at least, cherishes Paul Rudd’s acting as much as I do.