The title of director Jesse Peretz’ (The Ex) latest film, Our Idiot Brother, is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, Paul Rudd (I Love You, Man)’s character, Ned, makes some idiotic decisions in the film, and yes, his sisters (made up of an ensemble cast including Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer) call him an idiot from time to time. But, unlike other films revolving around “idiotic characters,” like Tommy Boy and Dumb and Dumberer, Our Idiot Brother has a sense of endearing innocence that separates it from other films with similar premises.
As previously mentioned, Ned is somebody who makes questionable decisions. A hippie/environmentalist, he’s an optimist through and through. However, his somewhat naive outlook finds leads him into sticky situations, resulting in the major conflicts throughout the film. Following an arrest for selling weed to a uniformed officer, Ned finds himself homeless. Turning to his family for help, he’s bumped back and forth among his three sisters: Liz (Mortimer), a yuppie mother whose husband, Dylan (Steve Coogan), is a documentary director; Miranda (Banks), an aspiring journalist employed at Vanity Fair who’s maybe, possibly, in love with her neighbor, Jeremy (Adam Scott); and Natalie (Deschanel), an aspiring stand-up comic dating Cindy (Rashida Jones). However, his naivety gets the best of his sisters as his well-meaning nature results in haphazard situations for each of them.
Given the fact that Our Idiot Brother is rated R, it takes risks that obviously separate it from other PG-13 comedies, but doesn’t get into, say, Judd Apatow levels. In fact, Peretz finds a good middle-ground between the Farrelly Brothers and Apatow. For example, there seems to be a trend of male nudity in R comedies these days, and there’s definitely some British twigs and berries in the film. However, Our Idiot Brother takes more from Apatow films as it actually has some level of depth to each character. As previously stated, Ned is not so much an “idiot” as he is just naively innocent and just a well-meaning guy.
However, the problem with the film is that it might be more of an end-product of its ensemble cast more than a result of Peretz’ direction. With the exception of Rudd and, to an extent, Jones, the majority of the actors play characters you’re sure to be familiar with if you’ve seen any of their films over the past few years. For example, Deschanel, as always, plays the cool indie girl, Banks plays the sexy go-getter, Mortimer plays the motherly/oldest sister figure, Scott plays the reluctant laid-back guy, Coogan plays the British snob. Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally a fan of each of the actors listed and enjoy the characters they typically play (hence why I’m a fan of them), but it’d be nice to see them out of their comfort zone.
Of course, the pressing question is whether or not Our Idiot Brother is funny. In short, yes, definitely. Rudd has a great comedic mind and to see him play somebody so straight-faced and genuinely inept is hilarious. If you’re expecting something with slapstick or toilet humor, this film won’t be for you. But if you’re looking for a character-driven comedy with heart and morality that isn’t shoved down your throat, Our Idiot Brother is right down your alley.
Overall Score: 7.00 – Good. (7s are good, but not great. These films often have a stereotypical plot or are great movies that have a few minor flaws. Fans of this movie’s genre might love it, but others will still enjoy seeing it in theaters.)