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The Box-Office Smash of "Role Models" Makes You Ask: Why Isn't Paul Rudd a Bigger Star?

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Paul Rudd, whose artful way with a comic line makes bad movies bearable and good ones way better, just moved closer to the stardom he so richly deserves. Role Models, the raunchy, R-rated comedy in which Rudd steals every scene he's in, nearly doubled box-office projections and grossed $19 million in what Variety termed, "the biggest surprise of the weekend." OK, Role Models didn't beat the animated kiddie sequel Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, which took in a gargantuan $63 million as America again narcotized itself in family blather. Chihuahuas, high school musical and now this! But Rudd, who's hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend, scored big time in a role that suited his deadpan comic wizardry to a tee. Rudd and co-star Sean William Scott play two losers who are forced to do 150 hours of kid-mentoring community service after destroying public property with their monster truck. Rudd is assigned to mentor McLovin' (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), but gets huge laughs just by ragging on life's idiocies like Starbucks using "venti" to describe a large coffee. So it's time to praise Paul Rudd, a supporting actor who is ready for the star spot. Here are my top picks for Rudd at his best. Chime in with yours.

The 40-Year-old Virgin, especially the "know-how-I-know-you're-gay" riff he does with Seth Rogen.

Rudd: You know how I know that you're gay?

Rogen: How am I gay?

Rudd: You've seen Rent three times.

Rogen: Being able to appreciate music, dance, and doin' guys in the ass is not the same thing.

Rudd: Yeah, but all three of those things comprise the movie Rent.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

— As TV reporter Brian Fantana, sex-crazed sidekick to Will Ferrell's 1970's-era anchorman, Rudd tossed out the cheesiest dialogue like a master.

Rudd: I'll give this little cookie an hour before we're doing the no-pants dance. Time to musk up.

[opens cologne cabinet]It's called Sex Panther by Odeon. It's illegal in nine countries... Yep, it's made with bits of real panther, so you know it's good.

Ferrell: I'm gonna be honest with you, that smells like pure gasoline.

Rudd: They've done studies, you know. 60% of the time it works, every time.

The Object of My Affection

— Rudd plays a gay school teacher who moves in with a pregnant social worker (Jennifer Aniston) so they can raise the baby without the complications of sex. Until she tries to turn him straight. Working with a script by playwright Wendy Wasserstein, Rudd cuts deep into a character that could have been a sitcom cliche like Mike Hannigan, the guy who married Lisa Kudrow's Phoebe Buffay on Friends.

The Shape of Things

— For those you don't know Rudd can do drama as well as comedy, watch him do both in the film version of this Neil LaBute play in which he plays a fat-assed nerd of a museum security guard who gets a makeover from a sexy art student (Rachel Weisz), and becomes — in a display of Rudd's scrappiest acting — a monster of his own making.

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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