When I saw the previews for Our Idiot Brother, I immediately wondered if Paul Rudd was envious that his co-star Steve Carell got to be the “schumck” in Dinner for Schmucks while Rudd played it straight. I guess Rudd got the opportunity he was waiting for as Ned in Our Idiot Brother.
The idiocy begins in the very first scene — selling a bag of marijuana to a uniformed police officer. What kind of idiot would do something so stupid? Someone who is a good-natured idealist and wants to see the best in everyone, that’s what kind.
Ned is not really an idiot, or even mentally handicapped as far as I can tell (though the “R” word is thrown around a few times).
Ned’s good nature lands him in jail, but he is released early for good behavior. After the stint in the big house, Ned returns back to his organic farm and his girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn), who he has learned has surreptitiously dumped him, moved a new guy into the house and refuses to let Ned keep Willie Nelson, the dog he loves so much.
Ned makes it his mission to get back his impossibly cute golden retriever from the vindictive Janet.
The movie, directed by Jesse Peretz, is a little all over the place with Ned’s family drama, and none of the stories are too captivating.
Ned’s sisters, whom I decided to name frumpy, frigid and flaky because I often couldn’t remember their character’s names, make up much of the drama.
The frumpy sister is Liz (Emily Mortimer), who learns her documentary-filmmaker husband (Steve Coogan) may be having an affair. The frigid sister is Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), who is willing to pursue any means necessary to bolster her career. Finally, the flaky one is Natalie (Katy Perry Zooey Deschanel), who can’t make up her mind on whether she is into women or men.
Ned’s innocent quest for truth (some may call it meddling) in all of their lives causes much drama and a big blowup. The ending is a little too conveniently happy for my taste. After such an offbeat beginning (the cop, the weed), I hoped writers Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall had a similarly wacky ending in store.
The movie definitely has a good, likable cast with a lot of recognizable faces. There are some fun supporting roles played by Adam Scott and Rashida Jones (interestingly, both are currently on the TV sitcom Parks and Recreation).
No one really stands out except maybe Jones, who plays against type as the tie-wearing lesbian lover of Deschanel’s character.
Paul Rudd ably carries the flick. I wasn’t so much of a fan of his Croc-wearing, long-haired hippie look, but he brought a certain charm to the role that other actors may not have been able to imitate.
I’ve been a fan of Rudd’s since Clueless, and I’m still waiting for him to have that big breakout role. It seems he’s best in an ensemble cast or a supporting role rather than as the star, so it may never happen.
Overall, the storyline felt pretty weak. There are many laughs in Our Idiot Brother, but it’s not the kind of movie I’d shell out top dollar to see. It’s more of a rental or watch-on-cable type of flick. ••
Movie Grade: B-