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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.58%
Worth A Look36.84%
Average: 15.79%
Pretty Bad: 15.79%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Our Idiot Brother
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by Jay Seaver

"A delightfully cheerful comedy."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2011 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL'S "SUNDANCE USA" EVENT (as "My Idiot Brother"): "Our Idiot Brother" is just as broad a comedy as its name suggests but a good deal less mean-spirited. In other eras, it might have been a door-slamming farce, although in the present its screwball tendencies are held back just a little; well-rounded characters are valued a bit more now.

Title character Ned (Paul Rudd) is, indeed, not very bright - he gets sent to jail not just for selling pot to a police officer, but to a uniformed one - but there's not a mean bone in his body. The same is not true for girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn), who has found a new boyfriend (T.J. Miller) and kicks him off the farm, not even letting him take Willie Nelson, despite Willie obviously being Ned's dog. So he winds up back home with his mother (Shirley Knight), but soon winds up couch-surfing and picking up odd jobs with his three sisters. Housewife Liz (Emily Mortimer) gets him a job helping her husband (Steve Coogan) shoot a documentary, but they don't really approve of him roughhousing with their son River (Matthew Mindler). Writer Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) has him drive her around while doing a story on Lady Arabella (Janet Montgomery), who won't tell Miranda the juicy stuff Miranda's editors want but hits it off with Ned right away. Youngest sister Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) lets him in on a secret that could wreck her relationship with Cindy (Rashida Jones), who's helping him get Willie back. And while Ned would never do anything to hurt his family, he tends to take what people say at face value, so inevitably things are going to slip out.

Ned is stunned to find out that River has never seen The Pink Panther early on, and it's not surprising that director Jesse Peretz and writers Evgenia Peretz (his sister) & David Schisgall (her husband) would refer to that movie. After all, Ned's not so distant a relative from Clouseau, a well-meaning force of comedic chaos who wanders from one situation to another, frustrating people terribly even though he is seldom actually the cause of their problems. From the first moment that the trusting Ned sees something with a chance of causing trouble, Peretz does a fine job of both keeping a number of balls in the air and dropping them when it seems appropriate; it's a fun blend of both comedy and comic anticipation.

Of course, it never hurts to have Paul Rudd around when you're doing this sort of thing. Made up as a scruffy hippie, he's got a big grin on his face through most of the movie and always gives just the right impression - it's tough to hit the right spot between totally and relatively oblivious; so often when people are playing clueless, you wonder how these guys manage to do anything. Ned has to be funny, but the audience also has to see how he is able to win people over before frustrating them. Rudd mines comedy out of joie de vivre, getting big laughs from little gestures and playing well off every other member of the cast.

And it's a pretty darn nice cast to play off. Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer, and Zooey Deschanel are all playing variations of their usual personae - Banks's Miranda is bossy and aggressively grabs the attention of everyone in the room, Mortimer's Liz is mousier than she really needs to be, and Deschanel's Natalie is a quirky oddball - the upside being that they know exactly how to milk these parts for the most laughs in their scenes with Rudd. What's even more fun at time is just watching them be sisters - there's an easy banter between them that obviously wouldn't exist with anyone else. They also each come with their own extra funny character - Liz has Steve Coogan's snooty husband, Natalie has Rashida Jones's awesomely cool girlfriend, and Miranda has Adam Scott's guy-next-door.

The most frequent sticking point with comedies like Our Idiot Brother is when they try to be more than funny, but this one does fairly well on that account; Emily Mortimer especially is able to show that the chaos Ned brings with him has some genuinely painful results. The reactions are real enough to give the movie a bit of emotional weight, but not enough to burden it or stop it from being fun. The only real flaw in the writing is an ending that sort of seems grafted on - like Peretz knew both that he couldn't end it a couple minutes earlier but that there wasn't much to add.

It bounces back with a little extra silliness, at least letting the audience leave with a smile and some good vibes. And "Our Idiot Brother" has a lot of good vibes to give; there aren't many comedies that are both this funny and have such a sunny disposition.

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originally posted: 01/30/11 13:32:35
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/19/13 sam Excellent cast .. lousy movie .. PVR makes it easy to go through the movie quickly 2 stars
7/29/12 Chris. Enjoyable, funny, stupid at times.'s a metaphor for life... 4 stars
9/24/11 Trina Lufkin Zooey Deschanel, get better roles or fire your agent soon! 2 stars
9/18/11 Lenny Zane Has its moments but stereotypes pour. Farmer ex-girlfriend just plain annoying. 3 stars
9/15/11 Lucinda Blair Never a good sign when character title calls idiot is LEAST idiotic character! 2 stars
8/28/11 Louis Blyskal Funny but stupid 3 stars
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  26-Aug-2011 (R)
  DVD: 29-Nov-2011


  DVD: 29-Nov-2011

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Jesse Peretz

Written by
  Evgenia Peretz
  David Schisgall

  Paul Rudd
  Elizabeth Banks
  Zooey Deschanel
  Emily Mortimer

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