Friday, August 26, 2011

Movie with Abe: Our Idiot Brother

Our Idiot Brother
Directed by Jesse Peretz
Released August 26, 2011

A title like “Our Idiot Brother” presupposes the existence of a central less-than-intelligent character, but also of a family unit that exists around him. That transforms this film from a one-man show into an ensemble piece, featuring a flurry of performances from actors with diverse backgrounds and previous roles. It’s a fun setup that brings together a wide range of talent in a movie that’s certainly fun, though doesn’t necessarily reach the level of funny on a regular basis. Nonetheless, it’s a harmless and enjoyable film that has a surprisingly strong sense of itself and ultimately proves to be heartwarming.

Paul Rudd stars as Ned, a well-meaning hippie sent to prison for selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer. Recent parts in films like “How Do You Know” and “I Love You Man” have made it easy to forget that Rudd is capable of playing more than just the straight man, and that when he wants to, he can actually be quite hilarious. Here, he’s fiercely committed to portraying Ned as just about the nicest guy on the face of the planet, even if he isn’t gifted with the ability to pick up on social cues or convey an extraordinary amount of intelligence.

Ned’s family members are crucial to the story since they all judge him for the ways in which he ruins their lives, though they’re hardly as perfect as they think they are. Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel, and Elizabeth Banks take on the roles of Ned’s sisters, each weighed down by something different, be it an idea of perfection, promiscuousness, or a need to succeed. They are ably supported by Steve Coogan, Rashida Jones, Hugh Dancy, and Adam Scott, who fill the parts of their love interests, and all, in some way or another, have their lives strangely touched by Ned. Everyone here, including Kathryn Hahn, T.J. Miller, and Janet Montgomery, is clearly having fun, and it’s a joy to see so many talented performers assembled together.

“Our Idiot Brother” starts from an amusing premise and constructs a generally simple story with plenty of threads on which to send its dim-witted lead character. It’s entertaining enough, though it’s not the laugh fest that it could perhaps have been, focusing less on full-out humor than humorous situations. Despite that, there’s enough going on to keep audience members captivated and smiling, thanks to an endearing and occasionally charming cast that feels like a genuine dysfunctional family.


No comments: