“They let me go early.” “I won most cooperative inmate four months running,” says Ned (Paul Rudd) to his ex-girlfriend after just being released from prison for selling marijuana to a uniformed policeman in the new film Our Idiot Brother. Having no money and being kicked off his ex’s farm, Ned turns to his family for assistance. First to take him in is his sister, Liz (Emily Mortimer). Feeling guilty for having told him her door is always opened, she convinces her husband (Steve Coogan) to have Ned help on his documentary. Ned, being a hopelessly upbeat person but not the sharpest tack in the shed, starts to accidentally aid in the unraveling of Liz and Dylan’s already failing marriage with a series of blunders both at home and at Dylan’s work.
Desperate for a little peace, Liz sends her dimwitted brother to stay with their sister, Miranda (Elizabeth Banks). To say Miranda is not happy to have Ned crashing on her couch is a gross understatement. Now don’t get the wrong idea, she loves her brother but would rather not have him upset her comfortable routine. However, when Miranda needs Ned’s help on a story she’s working on for her magazine editor he becomes the key to her hope for a promotion. The only snag is that Ned would have to help Miranda do something unethical. Believing people are basically good and almost never lying, Ned is less inclined to aid his sister in her quest for the ultimate gossip article. This, plus throwing a huge wrench into her close friendship with Jeremy (Adam Scott) by some horrible miscommunication, it’s not long before Ned is on the doorstep of his third sister, Natalie (Zooey Deschanel).
Already in the middle of her own life crisis, Natalie makes the mistake of confiding in Ned about the big secret she’s keeping from her girlfriend Cindy. Now it’s only a matter of time before well-meaning Ned lets the secret out thinking it’s already been dealt with and causing Natalie’s world to come crashing down around her.
Our Idiot Brother is a lighthearted, funny comedy that is highlighted by a stand-out performance by Paul Rudd. His portrayal of Ned, the good-hearted, likable, naïve organic farmer is reminiscent of other lovable underdog characters from cinemas past. From Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp, Jackie Gleason’s The Pour Soul and Tom Hanks’ Forrest Gump, Rudd brings to Ned just the right amount of heart and simple-mindedness to have the audience rooting for him to get his beloved dog back from his annoying ex-girlfriend and start over. Elizabeth Banks delivers a spot on performance as Miranda, the bossy, demanding, pushy but loving sister who becomes the first out of the family to start to appreciate and envy Ned’s pure outlook on the world and the people in it.
The only real problem with the film is the miscasting of Zooey Deschanel as the free-spirited youngest sister, Natalie. Her constant wide-eyed expression and the fact she has zero chemistry with the rest of the cast brings the film down a full grade and makes the third act with her character completely uninteresting and very predictable. Still, this is a comedy to be seen on the big screen if for no other reason to see Rudd’s laugh out loud performance. This is his movie all the way. The scene’s with him and his character’s parole officer are the true highlights of the film and truly hilarious.
Having to have to sit through many mean-spirited, dumb, vulgar, unoriginal, gross out so-called comedies, it’s a true pleasure to recommend a funny, goofy and at times sweet film that will have you chuckling and smiling as you leave the theater.
Our Idiot Brother is rated R for sexual content including nudity, and for language throughout.