Paul Rudd has a really big movie coming out later this week.
In the meantime, he also has a low key spy movie out right now called The Catcher Was a Spy.
Rudd plays Morris “Moe” Berg, a non-practicing Jewish man who plays catcher for the Boston Red Sox. The opening narration tells us he will be tasked with the assassination of German physicist Werner Heisenberg, who was working on creating an atomic bomb for Nazi Germany. The movie starts in 1936, as we see he’s nearing the end of his playing days. From there, he gets involved in espionage due to being rather gifted with languages (he speaks at least seven). As it is, Berg is also exceptionally good at keeping secrets. And by that I mean from everybody because pretty much nobody knows much of anything about him, including a long suffering girlfriend.
Here’s the thing: Rudd is completely wasted in this role. I’m not sure any actor could play a character that says nothing about himself particularly well, but the charismatic screen presence that is Paul Rudd isn’t quite up to the task, There are a couple scenes that Rudd pulls off, mostly involving lighter moments or ones where Berg actually shows some emotions, but mostly the man is a blank slate. That seems to be intentional because that was what the real Moe Berg was like. There seems to be little if any motivation for Berg to do some of the things he does because he never really opens up as a character enough for the audience to see it. Factor in a strong supporting cast including Paul Giamatti, Sienna Miller, Jeff Daniels, Guy Pearce (the guy who I always think looks familiar until I see the closing credits and realize I saw Guy Pearce again), Tom Wilkinson, and Mark Strong as Heisenberg, and the whole thing seems like a lot of missed potential more than anything else. When even a scene involving some actual action seems more rote than anything else, then you know something hasn’t gone quite right. 6.5 out of 10 reminders that Berg wasn’t a particularly good baseball player to begin with.