The Perfect Comedy Pairing: Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann

Photo Credit: Univeral Pictures
May 31st, 2012

The Perfect Comedy Pairing: Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann

--Hollywood has a bad habit of picking actors who have no chemistry and putting those actors in a movie. When the producers of "Me, Myself, and Irene" needed an on-screen couple, they picked Renee Zellweger and Jim Carrey. Though the two dated, many critics pointed out the lack of chemistry between the two. The same was true of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, who dated and starred together in the flop "Gigli." Some say that real-life couples lack chemistry on the big screen, but some couples have such amazing chemistry that fans think they have a relationship in real life. This is especially true of the comedic actors Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, who starred in three hit movies together.

Though many fans think the two are married or dating, they aren't. In fact, they are each married to other people. Paul Rudd has two children with his wife, Julie Yaeger. The couple married in 2003, early in his career. Leslie Mann has two children with her husband, director Judd Apatow ("Funny People," "Knocked Up"). Apatow frequently casts his wife in movies he directs, producers, or writes because he loves the life she brings to those roles. He even admitted that he wrote several parts in his movies with her in mind. Apatow must also enjoy the chemistry that Mann shares with Rudd, because he cast them in three different movies.

Both actors had roles in "The 40-Year Virgin," though they shared no screen time. Andy (Steve Carell, "Date Night," "Crazy, Stupid, Love") is a man who has never had sex. His friends, including David (Paul Rudd) decide that he needs help losing his virginity. They set him up on a series of blind dates, including one with Nicky (Leslie Mann). In her one scene, Mann almost steals the movie with her loud singing, cursing, and funny comments.

When the two starred in their next movie, they played a married couple. Apatow cast Mann and Rudd as Debbie and Pete, the sister and brother-in-law of Alison (Katherine Heigl, "27 Dresses," "Life as We Know It") in "Knocked Up." Alison needs to celebrate after winning a promotion at work, and she drags her sister to a bar. When Debbie goes home, Alison meets Ben (Seth Rogen, "The Green Hornet," "Pineapple Express") and takes him home with her. When she finds out later that she's pregnant, she enlists the help of her family.

Though the movie focuses on the relationship between Alison and Ben, fans found themselves drawn to Pete and Debbie. The relationship between Pete and Debbie was at least as interesting as the primary couple's. Debbie spends most of her time at home with the kids, and all she wants is a night on the town with her husband like those they once shared frequently. Pete is a talent scout and he frequently leaves the house late at night to go to nightclubs and bars.

After growing suspicious of his late nights and the way that he guards his cell phone, Debbie thinks he is having an affair. When she confronts him, he refuses to tell her that his "affair" is in fact a fantasy sports team. They fight and she throws him out of the house. Pete heads off on a road trip with Ben, which leads him to realize that he hates the nightlife and just wants to be with his wife.

Debbie comes to the same realization. After months of wanting a night out, she goes out with Alison and a bouncer won't let them in the club. When he tells her that she's too old for partying, she has a minor breakdown. That breakdown fuels her reconciliation with Pete at the birthday party for their daughter. Watching Rudd and Mann interact is like watching a married couple work through their problems.

So many people enjoyed Rudd and Mann's on-screen chemistry that Apatow decided to bring them back for the movie "This is 40." The movie stars the two as Pete and Debbie, the same couple they played in "Knocked Up." Apatow claims that the movie is almost a sequel to "Knocked Up," though none of the other characters from that movie appear in this movie. The movie deals with the problems that a couple have when they reach middle age. Debbie still wants the life she had before children, while Pete just wants to relax and grow old comfortably.

Rudd and Mann have the kind of chemistry that makes fans wish they would make even more movies together. Mann breathes new life into characters that might sound unrealistic when played by other actresses, and Rudd has a charmingly unique quality that makes him seem like the guy next door. With three hit movies under their belt, it seems likely that other movies will start using this dynamic duo.