Is there a more amiable guy working in comedy today than Paul Rudd? Whether playing a cynic or a sap, he always comes across as the guy you want to have a beer with. Easily gliding amongst bigger players in the cutting edge works of David Wain, Judd Apatow and Adam McKay – the men who have redefined comedy in the past decade – Rudd has emerged as the most likable, easy-going and authentic of the lot. In Our Idiot Brother, a film designed around his incalculable charms, Rudd shines in his first film where he is the sole headliner.
Which isn’t to say he doesn’t get plenty of support. Director Jesse Peretz meanders through the material which echoes not only the “golly gee, this is gross” humor of Apatow but also the more subversive humor of Alexander Payne and Woody Allen in its tale of three bourgeois sisters whose lives come undone courtesy of their good-intentioned but idiot brother Ned. He also populates the film with a bevy of familiar faces from the big and small screens (check out Rashida Jones as a lesbian lawyer) and casts in the roles of the sisters three of my favorite comedic actresses, all in their wheelhouse: Elizabeth Banks as the career-obsessed Miranda, Emily Mortimer as the mousey and oblivious PC-mom Liz, and Zooey Deschanel as the flighty bisexual comedian Natalie.
The film, however, belongs to Paul Rudd’s Ned – the eternal hippy optimist who refuses to think anything but the best of the people around him, which often gets him into trouble. His three sisters, who all love him but never take him seriously and chide him for never growing up, are of course oblivious to the ways they are wrecking their own lives.
The laughs and the film are as easy-going as Ned, and it arrives as a breath of fresh air at the end of the summer filled with so many mean-spirited (albeit mostly hilarious) comedies like Bad Teacher and Horrible Bosses. Our Idiot Brother isn’t so much uproarious as it is chuckle-inducing and downright nice. Ned charms the audience and teaches the other characters some lessons. There are probably one too many subplots – but it all works in the end. There’s a cute dog named Willie Nelson and a cute kid named River (Matthew Mindler – who gets to play the stereotypical scene of a kid cursing at adults that is cathartic and funny in the context of the film) and there are two scenes (one where the three sisters come to blows over their damaged lives and one where Rudd loses it during a game of charades) that actually hold some emotional weight.
Watch out for Our Idiot Brother – it’s not as slight as it seems on the surface, and dare I say it might be the feel-good movie of these dog days of summer. And please, if you don’t like the film, I don’t want to argue with you. I’m a pacifist. All I would to say to a person who didn’t like this film is, “Like, really, man, WOW.”
Written by David H. Schleicher