OUR IDIOT BROTHER: 3 ½ STARS
The title is a bit of a misnomer because the brother in question isn’t exactly an idiot. He’s more a trusting soul who naïve ways get him, and those around him, in trouble.
Paul Rudd plays Ned, a Mr. Nice Guy unsuited for life outside of his organic farm. Imagine R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural and you’ll get the picture. When he innocently sells marijuana to a uniformed policeman he is arrested and thrown in jail. His good nature stands him well in jail, where he earns an early release—he won Most Cooperative four months running. Unfortunately in his absence his hippie girlfriend found a new boyfriend and has decided that Willie Nelson, Ned’s beloved dog, is better off with her than with him. His three sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Dechanel and Emily Mortimer) take turns putting a roof over his head, but in each case his willingness to believe the best in people causes chaos.
“Our Idiot Brother” is a low key indie comedy with a much different feel from the movies that made Rudd famous. His Apatow years have been spent doing broad comedy in movies like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up but this is more character based—and less funny.
There are laughs here, but instead of going for the jokes Rudd is concentrating on playing he character and allowing the humor to flow naturally from him and the situations. The result is a character driven comedy with a lot of compassion and some very good supporting performances from the women playing his sisters.
Banks, Dechanel and Mortimer each bring a different flavor to their roles. Banks is a driven writer with sketchy ethics, Dechanel a free-ish spirit with commitment issues while Mortimer plays a mousy mom. They all stand in stark contrast to the innocence of their brother but their presence buoys, and gives heart to, the film’s family first message.
“Our Idiot Brother” is a likeable comedy elevated by a strong cast who bring empathy to characters who, in less experienced hands, might not have had any.