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Our Idiot Brother (R)


09/01/11
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Paul Rudd is a good-natured, if slightly destructive, ball of sweetness and earnestness in Our Idiot Brother, a cute sibling-relationships comedy.

Ned (Rudd) is a nice guy. A very nice guy. So nice that he takes pity on a poor police officer who chats with him at the farmers market. Been having a rough day, the officer says, know where I can get some weed? And this is how Ned ends up selling marijuana (though, really, he wanted to just give it to him) to a uniformed police officer and being sent to jail.

Months later, he’s released, waving cheery goodbyes at guards and prisoners alike, and returns to the hippie farm where he had been working and living. But he learns that former girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn) has replaced him with a new boyfriend, Billy (T.J. Miller), and even plans to keep Ned’s dog, Willie Nelson.

So, Ned returns to his family. After a brief dinner with his sisters and their significant others, Ned stays in his old bedroom at his mother’s (Shirley Knight) house. But she drives him a little nuts and he’s hoping to earn some money to rent a goat shed that Billy thinks Janet might be willing to let him have. So Ned heads to his sisters’ homes. First, he stays with Liz (Emily Mortimer), stay-at-home mother of two children. Her oldest, her son River (Matthew Mindler), is being prepped for a fancy preschool, so he’s forced to play an annoying wind instrument and, rather than join a group of boys in the karate class he watches with much longing, he’s sent to some ethnic dance class with the girls. Ned, sensing what the kid actually wants, introduces him to martial arts via YouTube. For that and for catching Liz’s husband Dylan (Steve Coogan) “interviewing” the ballerina he’s doing a documentary on while in the nude, Ned is sent packing from Liz’s house.

Things don’t go much better with his other sisters. With high-intensity, career-focused Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), Ned messes up her dependent relationship with neighbor Jeremy (Adam Scott), the guy Miranda should clearly be with but isn’t mostly for reasons of their mutual awkwardness. He also leads Miranda to botch a celebrity story that would have been her big break at the magazine she works for. With his sister Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), Ned accidentally tells her girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones) that Natalie is pregnant from an affair with a (male, obviously) artist (Hugh Dancy). Soon, Ned finds himself in trouble with all of his sisters. And, as he tells his parole officer (Sterling Brown), the situation has him so bummed out he smoked a little with a neighbor kid just to mellow out.

Ned still doesn’t quite understand marijuana laws.

Paul Rudd, particularly Paul Rudd being this goofy and sweet, is hard to resist. His particular brand of the idiot brother isn’t a maliciously idiot brother. He’s more the guy who doesn’t get why everybody can’t just be open and honest and happy and laid back. He seems at times like a bit of a man child but not in an adolescent, self-centered way. His sisters, even the geometrically coiffed Miranda or the married Liz, don’t have their lives together much more than him. But, in the sibling dynamic, everybody gets a role — yuppie mom, idiot brother — whether it really fits them or not.

The movie handles this examination of sibling relationships with some finesse. Even when the story is serious, the movie keeps it light — much the way one does in life to keep from going nuts. Though the movie is really Rudd’s spotlight, the sisters all shine as well. They manage to seem flawed and a little crazy but genuine and like actual people. Add that Willie Nelson-flavored soundtrack and you have a sweet, mellow comedy. B

Rated R for sexual content including nudity, and language throughout. Directed by Jesse Peretz and written by David Schisgall and Evgenia Peretz, Our Idiot Brother is an hour and 36 minutes long and is distributed by The Weinstein Company.
 






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