Review of Our Idiot Brother


Movie Review: "Our Idiot Brother"

-- Rating: R (sexual content, nudity, language)
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: August 26, 2011
Directed by: Jesse Peretz
Genre: Comedy/Drama

Ever since "The Hangover" proved that R-rated comedies could make huge money at the box office, less and less comedies have strived for a more family-friendly PG-13 rating. "Our Idiot Brother" is one such film that has plenty of salty language and compromising situations to elicit big laughs.

The film centers on Ned Rochlin (Paul Rudd), the idiot brother of the title. He has three siblings, all girls, who couldn't be more different from Ned's hippy, happy-go-lucky take on life. There is Liz (Emily Mortimer), a housewife who loves her children but seems frustrated with the turns her life has taken, particularly in light of her cheating spouse, Dylan (Steve Coogan). Then there is Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), a comedian who isn't completely sure about her sexuality, which is why her endearing neighbor Jeremy (Adam Scott) gets his advances towards her rebuffed. Finally, there is Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), a failed writer who still has hopes of one day being a columnist for "Vanity Fair" magazine.

The three sisters are forced to shelter Ned after he is released early from jail for selling pot. Yes, Ned was selling vegetables at a farmer's market and when a uniformed cop commented that he needed some stress relief. Ned hands him some pot with his veggies, resulting in his arrest. Most pot dealers get arrested for selling to an undercover cop, but leave it to Ned to be perhaps the only person to sell to a uniformed cop. The fact that Ned does things like this because he thinks it's the right thing to do, without fear of consequences, could be seen as endearing to some. To his three sisters, it is seen as more of a nuisance.

For every ounce of goodness in Ned, there is a pound of vitriol just below the surface in each of the sisters. They treat each other with barely disguised contempt, keeping an uneasy peace within the family when all they really want to do is scream at each other. When Ned comes back into their lives, he unknowingly unleashes some of that vitriol because of the honest things that he says. He is too sweet and maybe a little too dumb to realize that he may have just unleashed Pandora's box. Using his belief that there is good in everyone, Ned attempts to bring the family closer together, even as matriarch Ilene (Shirley Knight) would rather just stay drunk all day on cheap wine.

Rudd is the heart and soul of this film, and he does an admirable job in his role. As Ned, he walks a fine line that allows the character to seem gullible but never stupid. He is sweet without being completely innocent, as evidenced by his side job selling pot with produce. He even feels bad when he goes back home after jail to find his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) has moved on in his absence. He feels bad, not because she dumped him, but because he should have called to tell her he was coming home so she wouldn't be so shocked. That may seem incredible, but Rudd effortlessly makes it work. He has had steady work in films for years now, but "Our Idiot Brother" proves that Rudd deserves to be a household name.

The other standout is Sterling Brown as Ned's parole officer, Coleman. He is so jaded by the systematic influx of prisoners at his job that he can't believe that Ned is anything other than a mental case. Even as Coleman talks slowly to Ned because he thinks he is an idiot, Brown somehow manages to come off as almost charming. It is not a very big role, but Brown pretty much steals all the scenes he is in, even opposite Rudd.

Though "Our Idiot Brother" might get lumped in with other R-rated comedies, that would be a bit unfair to this particular film. Most of those other movies are raunchy and maybe even racy, but this film isn't really either of those things. Sure, there are some scenes that push the envelope a bit, but they always do it with heart. In fact, this is what differentiates this movie from others in the same genre-it truly does have a gooey center that borderlines on heartwarming at times. This is a good thing and a nice change of pace from the other movies it will likely be compared to.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars