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Our Idiot Brother (A PopEntertainment com Movie Review)

Updated: May 15, 2023


Starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dancy, Kathryn Hahn, Rashida Jones, Shirley Knight, T J Miller, Adam Scott, Janet Montgomery, Sterling Brown and Matthew Mindler.

Screenplay by Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall.

Directed by Jesse Peretz.

Distributed by The Weinstein Company. 90 minutes. Rated R.

The movie poster claims, “Everybody has one” and that is quite possibly true – the oddball relative who follows the beat of a different drummer and confounds his family.

Ned Rochlin (Paul Rudd) is the bane of his three sisters’ existences. He a low-key hippieish guy who is always in and out of trouble and his fast track sisters – the aspiring journalist Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), the artsy bi-sexual Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) and the unhappily married mom Liz (Emily Mortimer) always feel like it is up to them to pick up the pieces for the guy. Even though they love him they have pretty much had enough.

However, calling him an idiot – which his sisters do with some regularity – is unwarranted. Ned might be overly naïve and is certainly way too trusting and good-natured, but he is not exactly what you would call stupid. He just believes way too much in the essential goodness of human nature, but that is a personality trait, not an intellectual one.

He is so blindly trusting that he is willing to give pot to a uniformed police officer just because the officer insists that he is in the midst of a crisis in his life.

Idiotic? Perhaps. But it also shows a certain degree of kindness, knowing that the cop could be setting him up and still trying in his own way to make another creature happy.

Because, truthfully, happiness is really what Ned is all about. He doesn’t want to worry about the circumstances and the repercussions; he just wants to do what he can to make himself and those around him content.

Ned just wants to hang with his dog, grow his vegetables and smoke his weed in peace. Honestly, it’s not too much to ask.

Looking at how overwrought and angst-filled his sisters are, Ned sort of comes out looking like the smart one. He will not be overwhelmed by life’s petty dramas. Not when there is so much beauty to be seen and experienced.

It’s a funny idea for a movie and one that Our Idiot Brother mostly sells rather smoothly – what if the guy considered a head case by all around him is actually much more content with his lot and trustworthy than the more respectable people in his life?

Rudd has played this kind of pleasantly stoned dude before – his supporting role as a surf instructor in Forgetting Sarah Marshall could easily be Ned’s long-lost brother. Rudd does it well, though, wringing laughs out of sometimes uncomfortable situations and also giving Ned a surprisingly deep well of feeling and pathos.

His sisters are honestly a little harder to like, but thankfully they are all played by hip, quirky, very funny actresses who are able to give the characters a little more shape and nuance than probably appeared on the page.

Banks and Deschanel are forces of nature – blinded by their ambition and their foibles, but still fully realized and complex characters. Mortimer is given less to do as the overwhelmed and suspicious housewife, though she does have some fine, terse moments with her philandering spouse (played by fellow Brit actor Steve Coogan.)

Our Idiot Brother has an extraordinarily deep cast of fine actors. Beyond the ones mentioned above there are such terrific talents as Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation) as Natalie’s lesbian lover, a nearly unrecognizable Hugh Dancy (Adam) as a sleazy yoga instructor, Adam Scott (also from Parks and Recreation) as Miranda’s unhappily platonic friend, Kathryn Hahn (Crossing Jordan) as Ned’s petulant hippie-chick ex, T.J. Miller (She’s Out of My League) as her laid back new guy and the always dependable Shirley Knight as the quietly wise mother.

The storyline of Our Idiot Brother clunks occasionally, but most often it is a good-naturedly funny parody of both the hippie and big city lifestyles. Much like Ned himself, all the movie really wants to do is make you happy. It mostly succeeds.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2011 All rights reserved. Posted: August 26, 2011.


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