Total Recall: Paul Rudd's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Dinner for Schmucks star.
If things had worked out a little differently, Paul Rudd might have become a huge star in the 1990s -- but instead, his breakout performance in Clueless led to a brief appearance in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet and big parts in a couple of forgettable romantic comedies. The decade of supporting roles that followed may not have filled Rudd's bank account with leading man money, but they added up to an eclectic filmography -- and by the time he broke out all over again as a member of Team Apatow, he was one of the more recognizable faces in the industry. To celebrate his reunion with Steve Carell (whose 10 best we counted down here) in this week's Dinner for Schmucks, let's take a Total Recall look back at Rudd's best-reviewed movies!
Neil LaBute has never been known for having a particularly sunny view of humanity, and he continued his savage streak with The Shape of Things when it made its Broadway debut in 2001. Adapting Shape for the screen two years later, LaBute reunited the stage production's original cast, including Paul Rudd as Adam, a shy college student whose unexpected romance with the beautiful Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) is not, to put it mildly, what it seems. Like a lot of stage adaptations, The Shape of Things makes for occasionally stolid viewing, and that -- along with LaBute's continued fascination with human cruelty -- left critics divided over its merit. For those who appreciated the film's message, however, it hit hard, including Mark Halverson of the Sacramento News & Review, who called it "A grim and cynical but ultimately arresting exploration of personal expression and modern love."
After scoring his big break with Clueless, Rudd worked steadily, appearing in a steady stream of films, but by the early aughts, he was arguably best known for playing Phoebe's on-again, off-again boyfriend, Mike Hannigan, on Friends. That all changed with his portrayal of proudly perverted Brian Fantana in the eminently quotable, Will Ferrell-led ensemble comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Who can forget the Fantana-endorsed horror of Sex Panther cologne? Or the way he forever changed the meaning of the word "octagon"? Even many of the most sober-minded critics were forced to submit to its charms, including Ty Burr of the Boston Globe, who conceded, "Sloppy, crude, pursuing the most far-flung tangents in hopes of a laugh, Anchorman still gave me more stupid giggles than I'd care to admit if I weren't paid to."
Though he's best-known today for his appearances in Team Apatow comedies, Rudd has always been a versatile actor, and in 2007, he issued a reminder in the form of Diggers, a low-key indie dramedy written by ex-The State member Ken Marino. Though its theatrical run came and went with barely a whisper, this tale of third-generation clam diggers in Long Island during the '70s offered an impeccable cast (including Lauren Ambrose, Ron Eldard, and Maura Tierney) and a charming blend of humorous and thoughtful moments, all evenly directed by Katherine Dieckmann. It was more than enough for critics like Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News, who observed, "What separates Diggers from its kin -- notably the Ed Burns movies -- is the testosterone balance of its masculine script and Dieckmann's sensitive direction. Maybe we need more buddy movies by women."
John Irving's novels have had an uneven history in Hollywood, from The World According to Garp to Simon Birch, so when the time came to bring The Cider House Rules to the screen, he shouldered the burden of writing the script himself. The result, while not a critical home run, netted a pair of Oscars -- one for Michael Caine's supporting turn as the complex Dr. Larch, and one for Irving's screenplay. All of which goes to demonstrate that Rudd was in good company here, appearing as Wally Worthington, a friend to the orphan Homer (Tobey Maguire) and unwitting rival for the affections of the luminous Candy (Charlize Theron). Calling Cider "a fable that turns into a 1940s New England variation on Charles Dickens," the San Francisco Chronicle's Bob Graham proclaimed, "It is also one dickens of an American movie."
6. Role Models
If there are two things filmgoers can't seem to get enough of, it's men acting like children and children swearing like adults. 2008's Role Models took these timeless ingredients and took them further than most, thanks to a consistently funny script (co-written by Rudd, Ken Marino, Timothy Dowling, and director David Wain) and an improv-friendly cast that included Jane Lynch and Ken Jeong. As a pair of energy drink salesman forced to mentor a role-playing teen misfit (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and a foul-mouthed grade-schooler (Bobb'e J. Thompson), Rudd and Seann William Scott didn't have to do much more than keep straight faces while their co-stars let loose. Though some critics were unmoved by all the crude humor, most couldn't help laughing, among them Laremy Legel of Film.com, who observed that "Role Models could have been another formulaic comedy, fresh off the assembly line. Instead, the work of Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott here is worthy of praise and one of the funnier films this year."