Movie reviewer Dana Barbuto gives "Our Idiot Brother" 2.5 stars out of 4 and says, "I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a sentence with “My idiot brother ...” (and I have two, so there is a lot of material to draw from). Maybe that’s why I found “Our Idiot Brother” to be such a charmer." Have you seen the movie? What did you think?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a sentence with “My idiot brother ...” (and I have two, so there is a lot of material to draw from). Maybe that’s why I found “Our Idiot Brother” to be such a charmer.
Directed by Jesse Peretz, the film tells the story of the happy-go-lucky, super-positive sibling (a very hirsute Paul Rudd) of sisters Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel and Pittsfield actress Elizabeth Banks. After a minor marijuana mishap lands him in jail, Rudd’s Ned must seek refuge with each of his uptight New York sisters.
Over the course of the movie, Peretz, working from a script written by his younger sister, Evgenia – and her documentarian husband, David Schisgall – not-so-slyly makes us reflect upon our sibling relationships. As the movie meanders along, it’s clear who the real idiot is. How much you like the movie depends on how playful a mood you’re in because the joke is on the audience. If you’re expecting a broader comedy about a super-moronic guy that wreaks havoc, then you’ll be disappointed. If you’re expecting a comedy with heart – and unavoidable redemption – that lightly pokes fun at family dysfunction, then you won’t be disappointed.
Rounding out the cast are Rashida Jones as Deschanel’s lover; Steve Coogan as Mortimer’s cad of a husband; Adam Scott as Banks’s friendly neighbor; Hugh Dancy as a hipster artist; and Shirley Knight as the sibs’ mother.
For his fourth feature, Peretz’s film is propped up by his talented cast. Even though the script and story don’t dive too deeply into the dramatic, there are enough clever moments to carry it along.
However, the movie belongs to Rudd, who previously starred for Peretz in the 2002 comedy “The Chateau.” And once again Rudd proves one of the best comedic actors out there. An acting chameleon, he can play the straight-man and the schmuck and otherwise steal every scene. In the hands of any other actor, the titular idiot risks becoming an annoying cliché, but Rudd makes the character endearing. Idealistic almost to a fault, Ned puts his faith and trust in people and helps move his sisters – and the audience – into a better place. He’s not afraid to let a stranger on the subway hold a wad of cash for him or to literally believe his sister Liz (Mortimer) when she says her door is always open for him. We know those words are lip service, but Ned doesn’t.
When the film opens, Ned is an ambition-starved organic farmer living in upstate New York with his girlfriend (Kathryn Haan) until he’s conned into selling pot to a uniformed (yes, uniformed) officer. Upon his release from prison eight months later, Ned returns to the farm to resume his life, but his girlfriend has moved onto a new dude – a terrific T.J. Miller from “She’s Out of My League.” Worse, she’s taken custody of their dog, Willie Nelson.
All Ned has left are the Crocs on his feet. He spends the rest of the film couch jumping from one sister to the next to save money working odd jobs, including as an assistant to his brother-in-law (Steve Coogan.) Rudd’s scenes with Coogan – all improved – were some of the most dynamic in a film that suffers from some of the problems typically associated with ensemble comedies. Not all the characters are as full-bodied as they should be, especially the three shrewish sisters. On the flip side, Peretz, a director trying to make his mark, has a ball, literally, shooting Coogan.
Ned’s first stop is with Liz and her husband, Dylan (Coogan). Once he wears out his welcome there he moves onto the career-obsessed Miranda (Banks), before landing with Natalie (Deschanel) and Cindy (Jones). Each sister is drawn as a stereotype – Miranda, the self-absorbed journalist; Liz, the harried mom who only lets her kid have one cupcake a week and Natalie, a lesbian with her eye on the artist (Dancy) she poses nude for. Frustratingly so, Ned’s constant presence disturbs their lives, as he unwittingly reveals their secrets and trips up their plans. Ultimately, Ned forces the family to re-evaluate their relationships.
Even though “Idiot” is considered an indie flick, it has mainstream sensibilities. The film was well-received at January’s Sundance Film Festival, where the Weinstein Company nabbed the comedy for $7 million. With such a name-brand cast, “Idiot Brother” should do fairly well this last weekend in August, traditionally a dumping ground for movies.
Dana Barbuto may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OUR IDIOT BROTHER (R for sexual content including nudity, and for language throughout). Cast includes Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dancy. 2.5 stars out of 4.