Tag Archives: Jeff Daniels

Take Me Out to the Spy Game

The Catcher Was a Spy

by George Wolf

The Catcher Was a Spy features a surprisingly impressive lead performance from Paul Rudd. It’s not his talent that surprises, but rather the role as enigmatic baseball player turned wartime spy.

This isn’t what we’ve come to expect from the always welcome Rudd, which makes him that much more appealing for branching out.

Dammit, Rudd, you likable rogue!

He stars as true life legend Moe Berg, who spent fifteen years as a Major Leaguer in the years before WWII. Though never a superstar, he was a well-respected and durable catcher with many other talents that proved useful.

A Princeton grad with multiple degrees, Berg spoke several languages and was fiercely private. With his playing career over and a war raging, Berg’s intellect, discretion and communication skills were valued at the O.S.S., where he was trained as a spy and tasked with assassinating the German physicist (Mark Strong) getting dangerously close to developing a nuclear bomb.


Director Ben Lewin (The Sessions) fills his throwback yarn with the requisite newsreel voiceovers and shadowy set pieces for a satisfactory spy thriller, but makes more of a mark through the intimate workings of Rudd and the supporting cast.

We’re told Berg is an enigma, but Rudd makes us feel it. From his blunt honesty to his sexual history, Berg’s nature always seems a bit out of step with the crowd, and Rudd provides the humanity to get us on his side while he stokes our curiosity.

Supporting players, including Jeff Daniels, Sienna Miller, Paul Giamatti and Guy Pearce, are equally strong, cementing the relationships that elevate the adapted script from writer Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan).

As a spy drama, The Catcher remains fairly routine. Its power comes from its intimacy, getting just close enough to a mysterious, fascinating figure without disrespecting that figure’s commitment to mystery.


Fireworks & Ringtones

Dumb and Dumber To

by George Wolf

After 20 years, one ill-advised prequel and several false starts, Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas are finally back for more moronic hijinx in Dumb and Dumber To, and while the sequel may be dumber, it’s not at all fumber..funner..er, funnier.

The Farrelly Brothers are back to direct and help write the screenplay, and they set the course for another road trip, as Harry (Jeff Daniels) needs a kidney transplant and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) figures the best candidate for a donor is a brand new family member. It seems that years back, Harry got lucky with the town floozy (Kathleen Turner, agreeing to painful jokes about her current appearance) and now has a grown daughter that was adopted by a rich, famous scientist.

That daughter, named Penny (Rachel Melvin) is a chip off the old blockhead and is en route to a convention so she can accept an award on her ailing adopted father’s behalf. So the boys are off to find her, in hopes that Harry can get a kidney and Lloyd can pursue the crush he’s developed since first seeing Penny’s photo. Eww.

Expect plenty of sight gags, toilet humor, bodily fluids, funny faces and butchered wordplay (“that’s just water under the fridge!”) as well as an abundance of overly contrived situations. Though there are a couple solid laughs (watch out for the fireworks and listen hard for Lloyd’s ringtone), most of D&DT doesn’t rise to the inspired lunacy of the original.

Keep in mind, though, that there wasn’t really a call for a sequel until two decades of cable airings made the original Dumb and Dumber a cult classic. The need for a part 3 might take twice that long.

OK, fine, I’ll say it…

So you’re telling me there’s a chance!