Unfortunately, nice guys don’t always finish first.
That’s the case for Ned (Paul Rudd) in “Our Idiot Brother,” whose unrelenting honesty and good-natured attitude gets him into trouble.
After being tricked by a uniformed police officer who wanted to buy pot from him (Ned tries to give it to him for free, but the officer insists on him paying, leading to his arrest), Ned spends months in prison, coming back to find his girlfriend with a new man. That doesn’t bother Ned; the only thing that destroys him throughout the entire film — though there are countless opportunities with familial frustrations and general letdowns — is his ex’s custody demand of his beloved dog, Willie Nelson.
Ned bounces around his sisters’ (Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks and Emily Mortimer) houses, contributing to each of their downfalls as he commits enormous social faux pas by opening his mouth about various sexual infidelities, and ruins a high-profile story for Banks.
Rudd (“How Do You Know”) packs on the pounds and far too much hippie facial hair for the role, but the star-studded cast still shines. Mortimer (“Leonie”) takes her usual role as the sweet yet mundane wife, Deschanel (“Drunk History”) plays what The AV Club’s Nathan Rabin would call a manic pixie dream girl — an archetype she’s greatly contributed to in the last decade in films like “500 Days of Summer” — and Banks (“30 Rock”) functions well as the slightly bitchy control freak.
A supporting role by Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”) as Banks’ neighbor showcases his classic deadpan humor, and as Deschanel’s lover, Rashida Jones (“Parks and Recreation”) takes the cake as cutest badass, complete with dreadfully oversized glasses and an intense pep talk to steal Rudd’s dog. The weakest performance lies within Steve Coogan (“The Trip”), Mortimer’s cheating, frigid husband, but it doesn’t bring down the powerful cast.
Take all these great performances and what do you get? At times, disorientation. Shots move by so quickly between scenes and between characters’ abodes and dramatic situations that while it’s not exactly hard to follow, at times the editing seems a bit too fast paced for a lighthearted comedy.
And then there’s the comedy. It’s clear the actors are well-versed in improv and in general are talented comedians, but the number of laugh-out-loud moments are few and far between. Sporadic one-liners are more than welcome between the drawn out, awkward interactions and relatively mundane conversations.
But one very refreshing thing about the film is a lack of a romantic interest. Most writers cave into the rom com subgenre in these situations — especially considering the filmographies of the movie’s cast — but this movie relies solely on the relationship between a family and their dopey brother. Like Ned’s personality, the “My Idiot Brother” is unclouded by lust and serious relationships and left to be innocent and naïve.
And although Rudd is heralded as “the idiot brother,” he’s easily the most likable and full-hearted character in the film. He’s as lovable as his beloved golden retriever. By the end, it’s pretty clear that the decisions and behaviors by every other character in the film are far more idiotic than Ned’s contribution to the film’s title.
Despite the film’s few flaws, it’s a cute story about a lovable schmuck, but if Rudd had let his hair grow any longer, he’d be looking less like an idiot and more like his puppy.
3.5 out of 5 stars