Amos Barshad of Grantland tackles Paul Rudd’s career arc:
There is an alternate universe in which Paul Rudd becomes our next-wave Tom Hanks. He had the tools: the puppy dog charm; the unthreatening good looks; a deep well of finely cultivated, but ultimately unbitter, cynical smarts. If he’d wanted to, surely, he could have knocked out the rom-coms like a pre-McConaissance, naked bongo-smashing Matthew McConaughey. Maybe Rudd got lucky in that he never had one break out big for him to trap him in that look. More likely, though, from what we would come to understand about our man Paul is that he was always a little too off to hold aw-shucks for too long.
The amazing part is that about three years ago, BerserkHippo.com touched on this very subject:
What is Paul Rudd’s peak now, and what would it have been if he had broken out sooner? He still look’s young, so he has a lot of years ahead of him. But at the same time he could have potentially been this generation’s Tom Hanks. Goofy guy, very likable, eventually on to more dramatic things. Hanks did some silly movies in the ’80s, Turner and Hooch, Dragnet, Big, Bachelor Party and Money Pit to name a few. It really wasn’t until Philadelphia that he got serious. He then followed that with Forrest Gump, Apollo 13 and Saving Private Ryan. It’s really too bad IMDb doesn’t have a “most similar to” like Baseball Reference does because I wonder who Rudd would be most similar to?
Since that post in 2011, Rudd has released a bunch of movies, most of which I haven’t seen. But films like Wanderlust and This is 40 feel more like that early Tom Hanks, than later. Rudd is solid in This is 40, and he is good in parts like that. I never saw the independent film Prince Avalanche that Rudd starred in, but any hopes of that being a breakout dramatic type role were likely squashed by the fact that most people didn’t see it. Plus movies like the soon to be released They Came Together don’t make it seem like he is getting serious anytime soon.
Still Rudd is such a loveable guy. I compared him to Steve Martin three years ago, but Martin generally plays a snobby guy that, at least for moments in his movies, is someone the audiences are mad at. Rudd’s career still seems closely similar to the pre-dramatic turn of Tom Hanks, who seemed to be loveable in every roll in the late ’80s. It seems that Rudd is happy to just churn out mediocre rom-coms for a while, but that probably isn’t a bad thing.