Although I’m setting myself up for easy ridicule, after seeing Our Idiot Brother, it took me a little time to gather my thoughts about the film. In some ways, it made me wonder who was the bigger idiot, Paul Rudd’s character or myself.
And then it dawned on me. This odd, fish out of water feeling comes from thinking the film is a mainstream Hollywood affair. It isn’t. This is very much an arthouse comedy – but with a central cast (Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Dechanel) that has enough mainstream recognizability to warrant a wider release.
I’m actually a little embarrassed to have fallen for the marketing ruse when I knew full well beforehand that it was directed by Jesse Peretz, who worked with Rudd before on 2001’s The Château. Upon shifting my mindset, so many of the film’s elements became clearer. While it sports a succinct 90 minute runtime, the slower unfolding of the character dynamics make it feel about a half hour longer. Rather than pander to cheap, easy, and often gastrointestinally-related humor, the laughs flow from watching the characters react to their lives. And the big breakthrough doesn’t come from some grand gesture or elaborate setup, it’s simply the fallout of Rudd’s character being unable to maintain his abnormally positive outlook for once.
Now, when I intimate that this is an arthouse comedy wrapped in bigger budget clothes, I’m not saying it won’t appeal to general audiences. Far from it. There are a number of good laughs to be had but perhaps approaching it from the notion that it’s a movie about a family going through some tough times, that just happens to find the humor in everyday life, is the best way to go.
The cast plays wonderfully off of each other. Many of them have worked together before and you really get the sense that Peretz and Rudd just felt like making this film and then called a bunch of their friends in with the promise of catered food and a summer camp atmosphere. Rudd, who seems to have fallen victim to typecasting in the last few years, gets to play a character far more layered and akin to some of his earlier roles; and as a fan of that work, it’s nice to see. Banks, Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer each add their particular talents to the basic framework of the family and there are some very funny moments from Steve Coogan and T.J. Miller as well.
If Peretz had figured out a way to pace the movie better, the overall effort would have been better received but as it stands, Our Idiot Brother is more of a rental than a must see on the big screen. And while the film does have comedy running throughout its veins, don’t go in thinking there will be outlandish antics like that of The 40 Year Old Virgin or Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It’s much more about telling the story of how Rudd’s character fits into the lives of his sisters’, with the laughs coming packaged with a ton of heart and charm – which isn’t a bad thing, it just means changing your expectations slightly.
Our Idiot Brother hits theaters on August 26, 2011 and is rated R for sexual content including nudity, and for language throughout.