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Our Idiot Brother (2011)

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Score: 7/10

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: August 26th, 2011 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jesse Peretz Actors: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Adam Scott, Zooey Deschanel, Rashida Jones, Emily Mortimer, Steve Coogan, T.J. Miller

“O

ur Idiot Brother” is a simple, diminutive film that perfectly reflects the innocence and naiveté of the small-minded lead character. It’s consistently pleasant, humorous, and agreeable, with plenty of supporting roles inhabited by well-known character actors. It’s devoid of dislikeable personas and there are no villains; even those principals that aren’t specifically protagonists are never abhorrent – a favorably melancholy tone is bestowed on everyone. The comedy also works unfailingly, arising from believable miscommunication and carefully chosen dialogue that demonstrates the extremely unworldly nature of the intelligence and mindset being scrutinized.

Ned (Paul Rudd) isn’t the smartest organic vegetable vender in the farmers’ market. But he’s not mentally retarded or inflexible to outside influence – he prefers to put his trust out there, give people the benefit of the doubt, and hope that they will rise to the occasion and live up to his notions of common decency. Unfortunately, this uncritical thinking gets him into trouble. He’s arrested for selling weed to a uniformed police officer, kicked out of his girlfriend’s house, and robbed of his best friend and constant companion Willie Nelson, a Golden Retriever. He decides to move back in with his mother (Shirley Knight), but quickly realizes he needs to be slightly more independent – so he looks to his sister Liz (Emily Mortimer) and her documentary filmmaker husband, Dylan (Steve Coogan), for a place to stay.

Ned makes some cash briefly working for Dylan while shooting a movie about Russian ballerina Tatiana (Lydia Haug), but causes problems when he notices odd behavior from Dylan concerning nudity on the set. He also stays for a spell with his other sister Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), who works for “Vanity Fair,” but again stumbles into hot water when he engages in a revealing conversation with Lady Arabella (Janet Montgomery), the subject of Miranda’s newest, muckraking piece. Ned also turns to his third sister, Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), a struggling stand-up comedienne who falls prey to temptation and puts herself in a compromising position with girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones). Each destructive situation is instigated by Ned’s involvement and his failure to conceal information from parties best calmed by lies.

Ned takes the blame for nearly every disaster, yet it’s never actually his fault. His dysfunctional (or, more likely, average) family makes mistakes that he unintentionally reveals, giving him the impression of being weak-minded. In reality, he’s simply honest. At one point, the movie spells out the significance of his obtuse mental state: he accepts everyone’s actions and attitudes as righteous, oblivious to the adverse effects of hurtful truths – and unconditionally loves his family like that of a dog. He never questions motives or bad intentions and stays undeniably good-natured, regardless of misfortune. It’s this chipper, sociable, welcoming carriage that makes “Our Idiot Brother” so palatable – a Forrest Gump-like hero that manages to positively change those around him without even a hint of sinister tragedy.

– Mike Massie

 



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