There are great baseball movies and there are great spy movies. Bull Durham and Field of Dreams are great baseball movies. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a great movie about a spy. The Catcher Was a Spy isn’t sure what the hell kind of movie it is, but it sure as hell ain’t a good baseball movie OR a good movie about a spy. In fact, this movie wastes a perfectly meaty story and pretty decent actors like Rudd, Jeff Daniels, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson, Guy Pearce, and Sienna Miller on a movie that forgot how to be interesting within the first five minutes. I’m amazed that I stuck with it as long as I did.
With The Catcher Was a Spy, Paul Rudd adds to his recent string of mediocre films and performances. In the right movie and role, Paul Rudd is a gem, like in Wet Hot American Summer, Prince Avalanche, or I Love You, Man. But, with films like Mute, Fun Mom Dinner and even Ant Man, as his most recent outings, The Catcher Was a Spy seems like another cringe-worthy step too far for the (mostly) likeable actor.
Rudd plays Moe Berg, catcher for the Boston Red Sox, right before World War II. Experiencing angst as he watches his country moving toward inevitable war, Moe signs up to serve his country and is tasked with being a spy for the predecessor of the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Moe is given the job of assassinating Nazi scientist Werner Heisenberg (no, not Bryan Cranston, but rather Mark Strong).
At one point, after watching Moe ravish his girlfriend Estella (Sienna Miller), we learn that Moe also enjoys the company of men. So, is this a movie about a closeted queer baseball player in the 1940’s who is hired to kill a Nazi? No, it’s not that either, really. In fact, the scene in which Jeff Daniels’ head of the OSS asks Moe directly, “Are you queer?” he responds glibly with “I am good at keeping secrets.” That’s it. That’s the end of the strange queer subplot, which isn’t even a subplot at all.
I’ll admit, movies like this make me angry. When producers and writers have a damn good story to work with, they owe it to the world to make a halfway decent movie. This movie is not terrible, but, it commits greater sins – it’s bland, anticlimactic, and mediocre. Oh, and it’s confused!
Don’t bother with this one. Read the 1994 book the movie is based on by Nicholas Dawidoff. I hear it’s a fantastic read.
Too bad for this movie and too bad for Paul Rudd.