Some spoilers for Paul Rudd’s Netflix oeuvre: The Little Prince, The Fundamentals of Caring, and Mute. You’d be hard-pressed to find three movies that are more different than these.
In the space of four years, Paul Rudd was involved in three completely different Netflix movies. In 2015 he was in an animated adaptation of the beloved French book Le Petit Prince, otherwise known as The Little Prince. A year later he was in The Fundamentals of Caring, a kind of black comedy coming of age story that was also an adaptation of the book of the same name. And two years later he starred opposite Alexander Skarsgård and Justin Theroux in Mute, a Blade Runner-esque futuristic crime noir directed by Duncan Jones. Duncan Jones of course directed Moon and Source Code, two beloved Sci-Fi movies. He’s also known by his birth name, Zowie Bowie, which his Dad thought would be really funny. In case it’s not obvious, his Dad is David Bowie. Cool, huh?
The Little Prince(2015)
The English version of The Little Prince stars Jeff Bridges, Mackenzie Foy, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Benicio Del Toro, James Franco, Bud Court, Ricky Gervais, Albert Brooks, Paul Giamatti, and, of course, Paul Rudd. The French version stars Vincent Cassel and a bunch of other French actors I don’t know. I haven’t seen the French version, but since the animation is all the same, I’m sure it’s just as good.
This is easily one of my favorite Paul Rudd movies, despite the fact that there’s very little Paul Rudd in it. It’s also probably just one of my favorite movies in general. I’ve only seen it once or twice, but I could probably tell you the whole story, beat for beat, thanks to how distinct and beautiful each frame of this movie is. This movie has the challenge of telling a beloved and well-known story, but also building on it and making it more relevant for modern audiences. And it works spectacularly. It’s also told in two different styles of animation simultaneously. I should get the story out of the way before I continue gushing about how good this movie is.
At the beginning of the movie we are introduced to a mother who is desperately trying to get her daughter into a very prestigious school. If they are unable to get into this school then the mother’s plan for her daughter’s life will be off track. They don’t end up getting her into school, but they find out that if they move into a new neighborhood they can get a second shot. They end up on a block of identical grey and blue houses, except for the one next to them, which is tall, colorful, and dilapidated. Over the next few days, as her mother is at work, the girl’s studies begin to be interrupted by the old man next door who is desperate for a friend. He begins giving her presents wrapped in colorful story pages about a Little Prince. As she reads more and more she becomes intrigued and eventually ends up beginning a friendship with the old man, who introduces himself as the Aviator. We then discover that the Aviator met the Little Prince long ago. He won’t say it, but the Aviator is very sick, and wants to pass on the story of the Little Prince before he passes.
The little girl’s story is presented to us in a sort of muted Incredibles style animation, while the story of the Little Prince is told in a very whimsical animation style that almost looks like Papier Mâché brought to life. Throughout the movie we get to look in on the Prince’s adventures. On his planet he has a rose that he falls in love with, but he leaves her to explore. He meets a King who claims to rule the stars and a business man who claims to own the stars. He also encounters a very conceited man, played rather autobiographically by Ricky Gervais, who wants everyone to clap for him. This is one of the only Ricky Gervais performances I enjoy, but again he’s really just playing himself. The Prince meets a fox who becomes his best friend, and the Aviator, who he draws a “sheep” for. Eventually the Aviator gets in trouble, and the little girl vows to find the Little Prince in order to help him. I won’t say anything else, because the climax is really surprising. The movie also does a really good job of doing the source material justice while also keeping you guessing about whether the Prince is real or not.
It’s a really sad movie in parts, but it’s also really sweet. And the message is very powerful: “It’s okay to grow up as long as you don’t forget the child inside of you.” I’ll talk briefly about Paul Rudd’s role as well. I don’t want to spoil who he plays, but he absolutely nails his performance. There’s a real sadness to his character. You want to root for him, but he presents himself as such a purely pathetic character that it’s almost impossible. The whole conceit is that he can’t do anything right, but you also get the feeling that if he believed in himself and presented himself differently, everything would be better. Although maybe there are some darker forces at play holding him back… I won’t say anything else about it, just WATCH THE MOVIE IT’S SO GOOD.
Animated movies sometimes end up getting written off unfairly. There are a lot of people out there who assume that animated movies are all surface level kids movies that hold no purpose other than to entertain. But it is a genre in and of itself. So it’s frustrating when a movie like this falls below the radar, but The Boss Baby makes a bunch of money. At least I think it made lots of money. I try not to think about it.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10(This is a really good movie. Like insanely good. In terms of animated movies, I rank it up there with Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse, The Incredibles, and Fantastic Mr. Fox. People should talk about it more.)
Rudd Rating: 9/10(Again, I won’t spoil it, but he does a lot with not a lot of screen time. It also took me a minute to figure out that it was him the first few times I watched it because it isn’t that obvious.)
The Fundamentals of Caring(2016)
This is another favorite of mine. I can’t remember exactly when I first watched it, but it was before I became so obsessed with this man’s career. The Fundamentals of Caring stars Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez, Megan Ferguson, Jennifer Ehle, and Bobby Cannavale. It’s based off a young adult novel of the same name that I have not read.
After the death of his young son, a writer named Ben Benjamin(Paul Rudd) becomes a caregiver. He is soon hired to take care of a disabled British teenager named Trevor. After bonding for a while the two decide to take a road trip around the country to see some tacky roadside attractions. After they convince Trevor’s mom they hit the road. Lots of arguments and sarcastic banter ensues. Trevor believes that Ben has become a caretaker to try and atone for the guilt he feels over his son’s death. Ben wants Trevor to stop using his illness as an excuse to not live his life. Along the way they pick up two hitchhikers: Dot(Selena Gomez), a deeply sarcastic teenage girl that Trevor immediately falls for, and Peaches(Megan Ferguson), a very nice pregnant woman. I won’t say much else about the plot, because people should watch this.
Everyone is really good in this, especially Craig Roberts and Paul Rudd. I haven’t seen Craig Roberts in much else, but he’s fantastic in this. His performance is very sarcastic and dry, but you can tell from his first scene that he harbors a lot of pain and resentment. This is probably one of Paul Rudd’s best performances, too. He does such a good job portraying a man who is in pain, but also sick of people telling him how he is, or should be, handling that pain. This is a good movie, and people should watch it.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10(Yes, I had much less to say about this one, but I don’t like it less than The Little Prince. This one just has less visual elements to talk about. It’s still shot well. The climax is particularly stunning.)
Rudd Rating: 10/10(It’s often said that it’s much easier for comedic actors to be in dramas than it is for dramatic actors to be in comedies. I’ve listened to a lot of different Paul Rudd interviews, and whenever he gets praised for being such a great comedic actor, he likes to remind people that he studied acting. He set out to be a dramatic actor, and much of his early work was in dramatic films. The comedies came later. This is just one of many great examples of his dramatic prowess. He’s also really funny in this. Just watch the Slim Jim scene.)
On our Netflix adventure so far, Paul Rudd has played a bumbling man-child in The Little Prince, and a mourning writer/caretaker. Just two years later he appears in Mute as a villainous surgeon with a bushy mustache. I didn’t talk about it, but his name in Fundamentals was clearly ridiculous. Ben Benjamin? Come on. But it’s not as good as his name in Mute: Cactus Bill. Ha! Unfortunately, that name is probably the best part of this movie. As I mentioned before, this movie was directed by Duncan Jones, who is known for making great sci-fi movies. This movie actually exists in the same universe as Moon, his beloved theatrical debut. And I really didn’t enjoy it. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Mute stars Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, and Seyneb Saleh. It takes place in Berlin in the year 2058. The main character, Leo(Skarsgård) is a mute bartender who lost the use of his vocal cords as a kid. I think either a shark or a boat propellor got to him, but the important thing is that he was swimming. Remember that. He could’ve gotten surgery to fix his lungs, but his mom said no, because they’re all Amish. Which is really interesting, I think. Leo’s girlfriend, Naadirah(Seyneb Saleh), goes missing, and Cactus and his friend Duck(Justin Theroux) seem to be involved. Cactus and Duck are surgeons that help out the local gangsters. Cactus is determined to get out of Berlin and back to the states with his daughter, who later turns out to be Naadirah’s daughter as well. I’m just gonna spoil this, because none of you are gonna watch it. Leo spends the whole movie trying to investigate and learn more about the woman he loved so he can find her. Which makes it all the more painstaking and boring for the viewer, because I kind of assumed that she was dead the second she went missing, and that Cactus probably did it. Which is what happened. This isn’t really the kind of movie where a female love interest makes it out alive. She’s an attractive woman, so the laws of storytelling dictate that she must die in order to make the main character’s story more tragic. Look up “Fridging” if you want to know what it is I’m complaining about.
Cactus and Duck have a fun dynamic, but they’re both horrible people. It’s implied that they fought together in some war, and were also lovers for a time. Oh, and throughout the movie it is heavily implied that Duck is a pedophile, and when Cactus finds cameras in the rooms of Duck’s medical practice, he threatens to kill Duck if he ever touches another young girl again. And he should stay away from his daughter. But then it seems like he doesn’t change. And Cactus does nothing. Later on Leo finds Cactus and kills him. Actually, no, Cactus is bleeding out on the ground, unable to speak. Duck finds Cactus and could save him, but he’s like “You should’ve been nicer to me even though I’m a pedophile and a horrible human being, Cactus. Now I’m going to turn this monitor towards you so you can watch in your final moments as I go upstairs, pick up your daughter, and carry her out of the room. That way you die thinking your daughter will never be safe, because I’m a horrible creep.” Or maybe he just said the first bit. I can’t remember. And then Duck injects some knock-out juice into Leo as he sadly cradles his girlfriend’s dead body.
The last scene is of Duck driving to the middle of a bridge with Leo and Cactus’ daughter. Oh, but before he does this he fixes Leo’s vocal cords so he can force Leo to apologize for killing Cactus. Even though Duck could’ve saved Cactus. And he’s about to drop Leo off the bridge because he won’t apologize, but Leo grabs Duck and they both fall. And because Leo has shown us his lung strength throughout the movie by doing big inhales before drinking water, we know that he can be in the water for a while without going up for air. So he just holds Duck as he struggles underwater until Duck suffocates. The movie ends with Leo and the daughter walking off into the sunset.
And that’s it. It’s boring and everyone is horrible. Except for Leo, who is boring. Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux both put in great performances, but they play such abhorrent people that I don’t really care. Don’t watch this movie. Apparently it’s kind of like Blade Runner, but I didn’t like that either. If you watch one of these three movies, don’t make it this one. I wish I hadn’t.
Overall Rating: 4/10(I’m sure Duncan Jones is a good filmmaker, but I’m reluctant to watch his other movies because this one made me so uncomfortable. DO NOT WATCH THIS.)
Rudd Rating: 8/10(I would really like to see him play a villain again, because he did a good job making a horrible person seem sympathetic and relatable. I ranked him lower than usual though, because his character is an awful man. But then I gave him a point back because he wasn’t as bad as Justin Theroux’s character. I love Justin Theroux, but man, this movie made it hard.)
I know this one was a little late, but I hope you enjoy it. After Mute I need a bit of a palate cleanser, so next week I will be reviewing Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Paul’s role in that is small but memorable, and I look forward to revisiting it. See you then!