DVD Review: The Catcher Was a Spy

STUDIO: Paramount | DIRECTOR: Ben Lewin | CAST: Paul Rudd, Connie Nielsen, Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce, Mark Strong, Paul Giamatti, Jeff Daniels
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 2, 2018 | PRICE: DVD $15.41
SPECS: R | 91 min. | Wartime drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video  | Overall

After years of fits and starts in various stages of pre-production, The Catcher Was a Spy, based on an acclaimed 1994 book,  finally comes to fruition—and, sadly, it scores a major botch in most departments.

The story is a potentially fascinating one for a movie: Backup Boston Red Sox catcher Moe Berg (Paul Rudd, Wanderlust) happens to be Jewish, gay, carries a law degree and has the ability to speak several languages. He also lives a double-life as an allied spy and during World War II, carrying out missions involving Japan and Germany.

There’s lots of potential here, but not much of it is realized. Directed by Ben Lewin (The Sessions) and adapted by Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan), the film looks great, boasting moody photography and fine period detail. But in the dramatic department, the effort doesn’t click. Rudd, in a change of pace role, seems overmatched by his assignment onscreen, and he’s not helped by a script that makes him a cipher throughout. The supporting cast is first-rate with Jeff Daniels (The Martian), Paul Giamatti (Morgan), Sienna Miller (The Lost City of Z), Tom Wilkinson (Snowden) and Mark Strong (Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy) making appearances but little impact. Alas, the pacing is slow and, despite the film’s authentic cinematic environs, it fails to connect on a human level.

Perhaps a mini-series approach to the life of Berg would have allowed the filmmakers room to delve deeper into what makes the main character tick, while exploring some of his supporting characters’ place in Berg’s world.

Despite its top-notch cast, The Catcher Was a Spy received a very limited rollout and brought in south of $800,000 during its limited theatrical rollout last June.

Buy or Rent The Catcher Was a Spy

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.