Spoilers for every Paul Rudd performance from the cursed year of 2021, which includes Ghostbusters: Afterlife, The Shrink Next Door, Saturday Morning All-Star Hits, and the zombie episode of What If…?.
4. Ghostbusters: Afterlife
I already reviewed this, so I’ll try to keep it brief. This movie just isn’t for me. I don’t have a lot of nostalgia for the franchise, so to me it just felt like a soulless collection of Easter eggs. I think there are funny elements to it, and I enjoyed the tribute to Harold Ramis, even if their CGI recreation of him is much skinnier than Ramis was before he passed. I didn’t find the weird blue Josh Gad ghost interesting or necessary to the plot, especially when they could have just used Slimer instead. Slimer was conspicuously absent from a film that was dedicated to rehashing the past. I think that Mike from Stranger Things was an annoying character in this, and his love interest was grossly underused and poorly written. But Paul Rudd gives it his all. He really has mastered the art of being a goofy lovable guy, and every time he was on screen I was happy.
Rudd Rating: 9.5/10(This is the scoreI gave in my initial review and I stand by it. Paul Rudd turns into a weird demon creature like Rick Moranis did in the original, but he isn’t given enough time to act wacky before he turns into a giant dog thing. But he’s still great in this.)
3. The Shrink Next Door
This is a weird one. The Shrink Next Door is an eight episode series that ran on Apple TV+ and ended about two weeks ago. It’s significant for a few reasons. It tells the true story of a rich man named Marty Markowitz who runs his family’s textiles company and suffers from serious depression and anxiety. His sister convinces him to see a therapist, and he happens to go see the worst one: Isaac Herschkopf, a man now notorious for exploiting rich clientele by cutting their family members out of their lives, making the client dependent on him, and then bleeding them dry. Some of his clients have included Gwyneth Paltrow and Courtney Love. The show was based off of a podcast detailing Marty’s life with the doctor, who eventually took control of Marty’s house in the Hamptons and much of his finances, holding large parties full of celebrities every weekend. Those in attendance believed Marty was the caretaker of the house, and not the owner. Over time many alterations and expansions were done to what was once Marty’s family’s home.
So that’s one reason this show is significant. Because it’s about such a horrible thing. The other reason is that it’s the reunion of Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell. Which might have actually hurt this show, because some people might mistake this as another Anchormanesque comedy. And this is kind of the opposite of Anchorman. There are a few jokes, but it’s mostly just a drama about a bad man getting his hooks into an unsuspecting and overly trusting nice guy. There are some interesting aspects to this series. Rudd and Ferrell are obviously good friends that love working together, and that makes their dynamic in this all the more heartbreaking. You can tell that Herschkopf is a deeply sad man who never got any approval or validation from his father, and now uses the money and status of his clients to skyrocket his social standing in a misguided attempt to find worth and meaning in his existence. That’s clear from both the writing and Rudd’s performance. But it isn’t delved into enough. Ferrell plays Markowitz as trusting to a fault, but we aren’t given nearly enough explanation as to why he lets everybody walk all over him.
Kathryn Hahn plays Ferrell’s sister to perfection. You can see the sadness and frustration towards her brother. She needs him but she doesn’t want to, which makes it even more difficult when Ike forces Marty to cut her out of his life for good. As a result of that decision, she is absent for much of the series, but that’s somehow more effective. She’s such a huge and dynamic character in the first three episodes that when she disappears for the next four you can feel her absence. She isn’t always nice to Marty, but she loves him, and once she’s cut from his life you know that he’s in trouble.
Overall the show is fairly solid, but I have three main complaints. Casey Wilson plays Ike’s wife, Bonnie. She’s a good actress and she does well in this. But the writers don’t seem to know if she cares about Marty and what her husband is putting him through or if she wants to enable her husband to keep living the high life. In some scenes she seems miserable, in some scenes she’s happy and complacent. So I think it would have been better if that character had a more consistent arc. My second issue is the length. I think this easily could have been a movie. It’s a very repetitive show with not much reason. It doesn’t play out as a slow descent of Mary into Ike’s clutches, although every episode Ike obtains control of more and more of Marty’s life. Each episode is pretty much: Ike is going through something so he uses Marty to fulfill some insane and usually pricey inner wish of his. Marty questions it until Ike convinces him that it’s all part of the treatment and Marty has to trust him. And Marty wants to make him happy so he usually goes through with it. And by the end of the episode you’re left wondering how Marty will recover.
The ending also doesn’t offer much of a satisfying payoff. Ike doesn’t really get his just desserts and realize what a horrible guy he’s been. But that’s more the fault of real life Ike and how not much retribution has come his way since he lost his license to be a therapist. All the performances are pretty good, and Will Ferrell does a really great job in the last two episodes kind of waking up and realizing that 30 years of his life have been stolen from him. But the writing kind of lets the show down in parts. My final complaint is about accents. Both Rudd and Ferrell are playing very Jewish New Yorkers, and they’re both trying to lay the accents on thick. But it kind of slips in and out. I love Paul Rudd, obviously, but between this and All Is Bright, I wonder if accents are really his thing.
But yeah. Kind of a long show, but if you have Apple TV+, it’s not entirely a waste of time.
Rudd Rating: 7/10(He does too good a job at being a bad guy and his character is unlikable, but not enough care is put into the writing. There are moments when his character seems more interesting, but then they pull away instead of delving into it. But he’s still good.)
2. What If…? Season 1, Episode 5: What If…? Zombies?!
I’ll review What If…? as a whole later this week, but since he’s only in this episode, and it’s pretty self-contained, I’ve allowed myself to narrow the scope of the review. This is a weird episode. I haven’t really read the Marvel Zombies comics, but my understanding is that the zombies usually retain sentience. Which would have made this episode a little more interesting, but they opted to make them regular zombies with superpowers so they could instead focus on assembling the weirdest combination of characters. The lineup includes Bruce Banner, Bucky Barnes, Hope Van Dyne, Happy Hogan, Okoye, Sharon Carter, Peter Parker, and Kurt, Ant-Man’s Russian(?) friend. I’ll get my complaints out of the way first. Sharon Carter was obviously only in this to die because she’s the most boring character and Emily VanCamp does absolutely nothing with the role. I want them to stop putting this character in things. I loved Happy and Kurt in this but they helped make the tone of the episode all wonky. Marvel is really good at putting too many jokes into things that should be way more serious(Looking at you, Iron Man 3 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. But not Thor: The Dark World. I don’t care what people say, that movie is a fun time.), and the zombie apocalypse, should probably be more serious. But hopefully they’ll rectify that when making the Marvel Zombies TV show. Oh and my last complaint is I hate the look of animated Mark Ruffalo in that sleeveless sorcerer in training outfit. Not a good look for the man that is responsible for making 13 Going on 30 a much sexier movie.
I did enjoy some of the plot elements of this. I thought it was really interesting that the virus came from the quantum realm, and Hank was too blinded by love to see the monster his wife had become. And I thought it was great that that theme resurfaced later on when the team discovers that Vision has been luring humans to Camp Lehigh to feed the undead Wanda. There’s kind of a nice thematic connection between this episode, the Doctor Strange episode, the murder mystery episode, and WandaVision, about how grief can turn us into monsters if we allow it to consume us. And when the team encounters Vision, three important things happen. Hope sacrifices herself after making a surprising connection with Peter. Major kudos to Hudson Thames, by the way, for delivering an excellent Tom Holland Spider-Man impression. If I didn’t know Tom Holland wasn’t in What If…?, I don’t think I would have been able to tell. The team finds an injured and half-eaten T’Challa, marking the second of four bittersweet Chadwick Boseman performances.
And it is also revealed that Vision has saved a certain someone that was presumed dead after the beginning of the episode… a version of Scott Lang that is barely keeping his HEAD above water! Get it? Because the zombies ate most of his body and the only bit that Vision could save was the head. And all he does is tell dad jokes. It’s great. And yeah, his whole family is probably dead. But you get the impression that this is his way of coping. Oh, and Doctor Strange’s cloak attaches itself to his jar so now he can fly. If the Marvel Zombies TV show ends up being in another universe than I hope that they give us another version of Scott’s head in a jar. Because it’s really funny. But yeah, this episode is short and breezy, unlike this review, and I would love to have seen more of him in the show.
Rudd Rating: 9/10(It’s always nice to just watch or listen to Paul Rudd act like an idiot.)
1. Saturday Morning All-Star Hits!
This really came out of nowhere. I didn’t even know it came out until like a week ago, but man this show is so funny and weird. This show is a Netflix original that was written and created by Kyle Mooney, who also stars as several of the main characters. I’m not overly familiar with Mooney’s work on SNL, but it seems a lot of his running bits there ended up going into this. The show is an homage to kids cartoons from the 80’s and 90’s, presented by some cool radical brothers named Skip and Treybor, who are both played by Kyle Mooney. Each week we look in on new episodes of “our favorite shows”, as Skip slowly becomes very famous off of one line he delivers on the TV show The Strongimals. Each animated show we are given a glimpse of is both an earnest parody and depressingly adult version of a TV show from that era. The first one is Randy, a show about a dinosaur who thought he was the last of his kind, but it turns out there’s dinosaurs everywhere. So instead he skateboards with his friends, makes music, drinks a lot, and hangs out with his firefighter girlfriend, who is voiced by Emma Stone. And eventually he goes to music college. It’s apparently a parody of something called Denver the Last Dinosaur, and I thought it was weird and hilarious. The Strongimals, a Thundercats spoof, is eventually taken over by Skip and his unearned burgeoning celebrity. There’s also the Create-A-Crittles, a very weird Care Bears parody about these weird creatures that live in the garage of an artist named David. And my favorite of the animated parodies is Lil’ Bruce, a weird show about the depressing life of a comedian before he hit it big, narrated by a live action version of Bruce Chandling. Chandling is apparently a reoccurring SNL character of Mooney’s. Chandling is constantly interjecting on his own show for no reason at all, and it’s just super funny to watch.
The first four episodes are when the Create-A-Crittles episodes are first “aired”, and that’s what I’m going to focus on, because David is voiced by Paul Rudd. This is probably the weirdest of the fake shows, because it’s all about David trying to climb the corporate ladder in this company that he hates just to make money for his wife and son. And other than David and the Crittles, every character is British. And it’s really weird. Basically David has to redesign the logo for this company which has remained largely unchanged for many decades. And he isn’t going to redesign it because nobody does. But then the Crittles do it without him knowing and the corporation love the new version. Eventually they find out that the Crittles designed it and not David, and so the Crittles join the company and get David fired. Then his British wife finds out about them and leaves David. But at the end him and his wife end up back together and it’s revealed this was the Crittles’ plan all along? It’s nonsense. But I enjoyed it the most out of all of these things, surprisingly.
Rudd Rating: 7.5/10(He kind of plays the straight man in this and just gets befuddled all the time. So it’s not the most fun performance, but it’s Paul Rudd, so who cares.)
I’m not sure which Rudd performance I’ll cover next, but that’s a problem for later. Happy New Year! Which it will be exactly four days after I publish this post. Hope you enjoyed this!