Saturday, August 27, 2011

Our Idiot Brother

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Terminally-Naïve Hippie Wreaks Havoc in Prodigal Sibling Comedy

Ned (Paul Rudd) is a good-natured organic farmer who was dumb enough to be duped into selling pot to a uniformed police officer (Bob Stephenson). Not long past the opening credits we find him just being paroled, having paid his debt to society by serving a long stretch behind bars.
However, when he hitchhikes home to surprise his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) after being released from prison a few months early for good behavior, he’s shocked to find out she’s already shacking up with another hippie (T.J. Miller). What’s worse, she won’t even let him stay in the goat barn while he tries to get back on his feet.
So, broke and unemployed, Ned appeals top his mom (Shirley Knight) who enlists the assistance of his relatively-successful sisters, Liz (Emily Mortimer), Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and Natalie (Zoe Deschanel). They grudgingly agree to take turns letting the proverbial black sheep of the family crash on their couches, despite the fact that he has never held a steady job.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for Ned to wear out his welcome at each port-of-call, when the same gullibility which initially makes him so endearing ends up destabilizing his siblings’ assorted relationships. For instance, he is forced to bid mother-of-two Liza adieu soon after matter-of-factly mentioning that he caught her film director husband (Steve Coogan) cavorting naked with his latest leading lady (Lori E. Cunningham).
He next manages to make as much of a mess of commitment-shy Natalie’s life by nonchalantly informing her lesbian lover (Rashida Jones) that his sister is now pregnant after having a hetero one-night stand. And that same blasé attitude comes into play when he inadvertently interferes with a platonic friendship of Miranda’s as well as with her latest interview assignment for Vanity Fair.
Directed by Jesse Peretz, the decidedly droll Our Idiot Brother will work for you to the degree that you are able to suspend disbelief and swallow Ned’s terminal naïvete as he unwittingly wreaks havoc everywhere he goes. Credit Paul Rudd for portraying the character with an utterly convincing innocence, even if that dedicated effort is regrettably oft undermined by the script’s repeated reliance on repugnant misogynistic and mean-spirited flourishes.
A well-intentioned idealist clueless enough to make Forest Gump look streetwise.

Good (2 stars)
Rated R for nudity, sexuality and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: The Weinstein Company

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