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Monday, August 29, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW
Our Idiot Brother

When Honesty Isn't The Best Policy, Good Intent Or Not



Paul Rudd as Ned in "Our Idiot Brother", a comedy directed by Jesse Peretz. 
Nicole Rivelli/The Weinstein Company

 

by
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                  
Mo
n
day, August 29, 2011

Ah, family.  The glue that keeps us together regardless of the weather.  None is perfect.  Some are shattered.  Most are dysfunctional.  You have no choice about who your siblings are, so unless they are egregiously awful people you'd best learn to love them.  "Our Idiot Brother", a comedy which opened last Friday in the U.S., tells that story. 

Paul Rudd plays the poor title brother, and as Ned he's the "bridiot" to three wealthier sisters (Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks and Zooey Deschanel.)  This trio isn't quite as abrasive as, say, Adam Sandler's memorably tormenting sisters of "Punch Drunk Love", but each has their moments.  Ned has many moments.  Gullible, he's induced at the start to commit a crime at the behest of a police officer.  He serves jail time, and his hippie girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) has made other arrangements, including the purloining of Ned's golden retriever dog Willie Nelson.  Ned's also out of a home, and he's pawned off on his sisters, creating havoc while living with each.  Ned's sunny benign demeanor and angelic Samaritan forces those less innocent to confront their uglier selves earlier than they'd prefer. 

As directed by Jesse Peretz and written by his sister Evgenia and David Schisgall, "Our Idiot Brother" is a comedy of idealism, liberation, love and shunning your P's and Q's.  Everyone tells their own little or large lie or bears a secret, and what they do is worse than what Ned says, but his timing is everything -- normally the worst thing.  He'd put gossip columnists out of business.  Ned is the 21st century Chance of "Being There", repeating exactly what he sees or hears with his childlike, untainted heart.  Ned is also a gregarious edition of Mark Ruffalo's disruptive brother character from "You Can Count On Me", and evokes a hybrid of the characters Alan Arkin and Steve Carell played in "Little Miss Sunshine", though Ned loves life.  Regardless of analogy or comparison, Paul Rudd is superb as Ned, a nouveau-Sixties man who means well, even if what he says doesn't bode well.

Mr. Rudd can and will do anything on the big screen, and 90% of his work is very good, even in films ("The Shape Of Things", "Role Models") where the material isn't on par with his talent level.  He sells his characters well at all times, never betraying their objectives, and in "Our Idiot Brother" Mr. Rudd creates a character in Ned whose personality is separate and distinct from the cosmetic designs he wears.  A less savvy actor would allow Ned's hippie appearance to be the entire character and affectation.  Mr. Rudd does so much more, and the sharp screenplay contains vivid, relatable characters to accompany and interact with him. 

The ensemble cast is flawless.  Each actor is given the stage to flaunt their own foibles and idiosyncrasies without being a distraction or hindrance to story progression.  The actors are smart and industrious enough not to let Ned stick out like a sore thumb.  Besides Mr. Rudd, Ms. Hahn, T.J. Miller and Mr. Rudd's frequent film colleague Elizabeth Banks are standouts.  Ms. Banks' versatility ("W.", "Zack And Miri", "Spider-Man 2", "Role Models", "The Next Three Days") is further cemented here.

Mr. Peretz directs the film's mini-stories and situations proficiently and in a way that makes each character sympathetic and embraceable.  The strength of the film besides its stellar performances and script is its joyful unselfconsciousness.  Everything seen is real, with dramas that are plausible, funny and foolish.  "Our Idiot Brother" avoids judgments of its reproachable characters the director leaves his talented players to swim in their own wild, spontaneous energy.  Mr. Peretz even has time to fit in an unrecognizable Hugh Dancy in a small but pivotal role.   

We know people like Ned, and we know and have families like the one he's part of.  We may not like the things they say but we generally love them all the same.  They are our adorable "idiots", and they reaffirm the humanity and diversity of family.  Mr. Peretz's entertaining no-goodwill-goes-unpunished comedy might make you embrace your own familial misfits that much more.       

With: Rashida Jones, Steve Coogan, Shirley Knight, Adam Scott, Matthew Mindler, Janet Montgomery.

"Our Idiot Brother" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for sexual content including nudity, and for language throughout.  The film's duration is one hour and 30 minutes.


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