Paul Rudd looks to continue making his appeal to be seen as a more versatile actor in this week’s new limited release The Catcher Was a Spy. Based on a true story, Rudd plays Moe Berg, a catcher who played much of his career for the Chicago White Sox in the early part of the 20th century. Berg was more than a ballplayer, though, speaking 10 languages and accumulating a number of degrees.
All that made him attractive to the Office of Strategic Services, the U.S. military’s intelligence service during World War II. The OSS recruited Berg, who served in many fields during the war. The movie focuses on one particular assignment: A mission to Europe to determine whether or not German scientists including Werner Heisenberg were close to developing their own atomic bomb.
There’s not a whole lot going on with the movie’s one poster. A massive image of Rudd’s head dominates the design, positioned above a dark alley where two men wearing hats and trenchcoats (which work to establish that this is a period piece about spy stuff) are engaged in some shady business. There’s copy explaining this is “The true story of Moe Berg” but what are the odds that’s going to create any sense of recognition in the audience?
Moe, as the trailer starts, is being recruited by the military for a vaguely defined job. Eventually it’s explained that because of his unique mix of physical aptitude, education and language proficiency, they want him to go into Germany and deduce whether the Nazis have developed an atomic bomb. Ultimately he’s asked to kill the scientist he’s sent to spy on if he learns that a bomb either exists or is imminent, a prospect Berg isn’t entirely comfortable with. There are some generic shots of WWII battle and lots of drama around him leaving his girl.
It’s not a bad trailer, but it very much sells the movie as a more or less conventional war spy drama. Berg’s is an intriguing story but the trailer dispenses with what makes it unique pretty quickly to get to fairly standard spy material. None of that is necessarily bad, it’s just what’s being shown here.
Online and Social
There’s not much happening on IFC Films’ page for the movie, where you’ll just find the trailer, poster, cast/crew list and a story synopsis. It’s also received limited support on the studio’s social channels, which have focused on some other buzzier titles to date.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’ve come across here.
Media and Publicity
The movie was originally slated to screen at the Toronto Film Festival but was pulled by the filmmakers who didn’t feel it was ready for debut at that time. With an all-star cast and a great premise, it’s unsurprising the movie frequently made the lists of critics’ most-anticipated films of the Sundance Film Festival. Eventual reviews weren’t exactly in-line with those expectations. But while there Rudd talked about how his role in Ant-Man helped open the door to this film by giving him a chance to do something new in his career. It wasn’t until late April that IFC acquired the film
It’s not that surprising there hasn’t been a bigger push for the movie. Not only is it a niche release but any more substantial press activity would have necessitated Rudd’s involvement and he’s likely committed to promoting the upcoming Ant-Man sequel.
It’s an interesting story being sold, but there’s no real strong hook for the audience to latch onto. It’s not new or revelatory in any way, coming off as just a seemingly solid period drama without whole lot to offer.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.