Sunday, September 18, 2011

Our Idiot Brother

Spoiler alert-o-meter: A few, but you're not really gonna see this movie in the theater, are you?

In the past few years Paul Rudd has acted in movies large and small, in parts dramatic and comedic. Although he is known mostly for doing his comedic roles both dopey and endearing in Anchorman, 40-Year-Old Virgin, Dinner for Schmucks, I Love You, Man, and Role Models, he’s also made smaller, quieter movies like The Château, P.S, and Diggers. He’s played minor and major characters both, although with Our Idiot Brother he, for the first time in a major studio movie, comes out from behind the higher wattage stars to become one himself by playing the lead. A lead he shares with a plethora of actors, many comedians, mostly women.

Rudd pulls off a role that at first blush looks like a variation on the pothead surfer character he walked through in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But Rudd infuses all his roles with an inherent niceness. So for the idiot brother here, Ned, he’s more than just a clueless goof with a Grateful Dead beard and an attitude forged from Birkenstocks, he’s a sweet guy who really just wants to get along with everybody although everybody makes it hard for him to achieve this goal.

Case in point; while set up at a farmer’s market selling organic veggies grown on the farm where he room and boards, Ned sells a baggie of pot to a small town cop in uniform who just wants to relax after a bad day. For his dimwitted kindness, Ned gets arrested. After he spends 8 months in the slammer, he returns to the organic farm, beard and ‘tude intact, to find that his dim-witted girlfriend has taken up with an equally dimwitted dude. Ned, always wanting to find the good in people, has a difficult time wrapping his mind around this. She won’t even let him take his dog, Willie Nelson.

Next stop, Ned heads home to stay with his mom while he figures things out. Mom’s a gentle dimwitted soul who always has a drink in her hand and wants to take Ned button buying. “Do you need one? We should leave early to beat the crowds.” Nearby live his three sisters, all very set in their ways with their own lives. Not much room for Ned.


His sister Liz (Emily Mortimer) is a dour stay-at-home mom to her dour little son, fathered by a documentary filmmaker, Dylan (Steve Coogan—excellent here in a supporting role). In return for a pittance and a place to crash, Ned helps out around Liz’s household and with her son.

She also gets Dylan to let Ned crew on his documentary. Which means carrying equipment bags and watching the car while he goes and films his subject, a Russian dancer, naked as she “bares her soul to the camera.” Ned bonds instantly with the son, and he introduces him the original Pink Panther movies, which the boy loves. Especially the nutty and playfully violent Kato scenes, much to the chagrin of his parents who smother the kid with PC parenting practices.

Poor Ned has no capacity to lie. His guileless ways end him up in trouble with all his sisters at one point or another. He finds a way to screw up a big interview his sister Miranda (dark hair-dyed Elizabeth Banks, doing her best Parker Posey—although I longed for Ms. Posey to bust on through), a journalist, lines up with the girlfriend of an international white collar criminal. He also opens his mouth at the wrong time with Miranda’s best friend, Jeremy. It’s obvious Miranda and Jeremy should be together, but not when Ned’s finished trying to help. 

Zooey Deschanel plays Ned’s third sister, Natalie, a gay aspiring comedienne (a quirky type, which Ms. Deschanel seems to have cornered). Ned manages to spill the beans about a secret Natalie is keeping from her lover, Cindy (Rashda Jones). Soon enough everyone—sisters, brother-in-law, ex-girlfriend, friends of friends, even his parole officer—is pissed off at him. Where’s the love for Ned? Only a dog named Willie Nelson knows for sure.

On the page this sounds odious, dubious, silly, sloppy, hit-or-miss. On the screen it’s actually pretty funny: a shambling, well-meaning if at times obvious movie whose story shows its graying sit-com roots in every scene but whose sweet intentions leave you smiling as you file out and wonder who names a dog Willie Nelson? Paul Rudd’s Ned, Our Idiot Brother, that’s who.


Theater location: Lowell Showcase, Sunday, September 13th, 7:05 pm. Viewed with Liz! Snack: Licorice!

Coming Attractions:

50/50. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has cancer. His buddy Seth Rogen is there to support him, and try to get him laid. Hilarity ensues. It looks funny, and heartfelt. Based on the true-life story of the movie's writer, Will Reiser, and his real-life buddy, Seth Rogen.

Dirty Girl. Let's see what IMDB says about this one, "It's 1987 and Danielle, the high school 'Dirty Girl', is running away. With her is chubby, gay Clarke, a bag of flour called Joan and a Walkman full of glorious 80's tunes." Hmm, there's more than that to this story of a girl who flees her current family situation to find her real parents. Or something. With Juno Temple, Milla Jovovich, Mary Steenburgen, William H. Macy, and Tim McGraw.

I Don't Know How She Does It. Sarah Jessica Parker overcomes Sex And the City 2 to make another movie. This one, about a woman trying to balance career, kids, loving husband, could have starred Diane Keaton in another decade. With Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosnan, Christina Hendricks, Seth Meyers, Olivia Munn, and Kelsey Grammer, as another horrible boss.

Like Crazy. College-aged love affair between an American and a Brit. Starring Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin, and Jennifer Lawrence.

Tower Heist. A movie with a name like that can only be about one thing. A heist. In a tower. A high rise apartment to be exact. It's 48 Hours revisted, with con Eddie Murphy getting sprung from prison by Ben Stiller. Also starring Alan Alda, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Téa Leoni, and Gabourey Sidibe.


Cynthia Sherrick said...

I may have to wait for the DVD on this one although it sounds somewhat charming.
Thanks UN! :)

Dell Smith said...

It is somewhat charming. Should be out on DVD soon. Thanks Cyn!

Liz's Mom said...

Your review is certainly charming, it had me smiling as I read.

The Coming Attractions are always delightful additions to the main event.

Dell Smith said...

Thanks LM!