“The Fundamentals of Caring” is a strained, overly familiar tale of catharsis and redemption. Stars Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts work hard but are torpedoed by writer-director Rob Burnett’s wanting script (adapted from the novel by Jonathan Evison), thudding stabs at buoyancy and sluggish pacing.
Ben (Rudd), an ex-novelist and newly minted caregiver, starts working for Trevor (Roberts), an acerbic 18-year-old with muscular dystrophy and a hovering mother (Jennifer Ehle). That Ben and Trevor bond as fast as they do limits the potential tension but hey, these two have a road trip to take. Of course they do.
Unfortunately, the movie sputters once they leave Seattle in search of such offbeat roadside attractions as “The World’s Deepest Pit.” En route, they pick up an inexplicably foul-mouthed teen hitchhiker (an unconvincing Selena Gomez) who the virginal Trevor will, natch, fall for. They next rescue a stranded, very pregnant bumpkin (Megan Ferguson) who will ultimately — and not too plausibly — provide Ben a chance to help square his traumatic past.
Also on this tour of movie road-trip tropes: an ill-fated visit between Trevor and his estranged father (Frederick Weller) that includes a predictable non-twist.
Although Trevor’s disability feels authentically handled by Burnett and the able-bodied Roberts, it may raise the question (as did the recent “Me Before You”): Was no disabled actor available to play this part?
‘The Fundamentals of Caring’
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino. Also on Netflix.