In “Our Idiot Brother,” after easygoing, carefree Ned is released from prison due to selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer, he is dumped by his hippie chick girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn), and then proceeds to live with each of his three straight-laced sisters: Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), a career-obsessed perpetual singleton; Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), an eclectic lesbian who cheats on her loving girlfriend (Rashida Jones) with an artsy pal (Hugh Dancy); and Liz (Emily Mortimer), a hard-working mother and wife who seems to be resentful of her packed life.
Ned is truly as far from “street smart” as one can possibly be. He is almost like Will Ferrell’s character in “Elf”, with his blatant wordily ignorance and naiveté, despite being a bit of a druggie. He sees the good in everyone, and even asks a stranger on the Subway to hold some cash for him for a few seconds, oblivious to the fact that the man could easily run off with his money. Additionally, he appears to be similar to Amelia Bedelia, taking things literally, such as when he tells his parole officer that he smoked marijuana recently and repeats the statement after the officer says, “I did not just hear that.” Even his mother (Shirley Knight) treats him like a child, which certainly does not help the situation. Furthermore, Ned does not appear to undergo any sort of transformation in the film, which is typical of the protagonist, and instead it is his sisters who are subjected to complete changes.
As Ned, Rudd is astoundingly hilarious and as likable as always, despite the fact that his character’s antics are at times exceedingly embarrassing. The film’s ending is highly disappointing, as it is as predictable as can be. Any dramatic situations that occur are evidently attempting to successfully contrast with the movie’s comical elements, yet it is difficult to take any of these occurrences seriously, just as Ned fails to take the dramatic situations seriously.
Additionally, we begin to tire of the sisters’ complaints of annoyance regarding their brother’s unusual behavior. Yes, we know that he is not behaving as should a “normal” human being, yet this fact does not need to be pressed upon us. What’s more, the film appears to be belittling Ned at times, exaggerating his idiotic tendencies to the point that one almost pities his inexplicable idiocy. However, unsurprisingly, as his actions are inherently good-intentioned, his mistakes positively affect his sisters’ lives in unsuspecting ways.
Regardless of the movie’s flaws, it is undeniably enjoyable, and treats family relationships in a reasonably convincing and believable manner. Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall’s script is a bit raunchy at parts, but it is not overdone or distracting. It is surprising to hear indie darling Deschanel unleash f-bombs, and to see the lovely Jones in masculinized outfits, yet they are incredibly charming and create a feasible on-screen lesbian relationship. The remainder of the cast, including Banks, Mortimer, and Hahn, are incredibly fitting for their roles and contribute to an entertainment late-summer flick.
Jesse Peretz (director) / David Schisgall, Evgenia Peretz (screenplay)
CAST: Paul Rudd … Ned
Elizabeth Banks … Miranda
Adam Scott … Jeremy
Rashida Jones … Cindy
Zooey Deschanel … Natalie
Emily Mortimer … Liz
Steve Coogan … Dylan
Kathryn Hahn … Janet