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August 26: "Our Idiot Brother"
Big Beach Films

Our Idiot Brother: Film Review

8:41 PM PST 1/22/2011 by John DeFore

The Bottom Line

Dysfunctional family comedy ambles instead of snowballing and treats its good-hearted hero pretty shabbily.

 

 

It may be no worse than Paul Rudd's latest vehicle, "How Do You Know," but it's yet another leading role that fails to live up to the actor's talent.

Paul Rudd's Ned Rochlin, recently released from jail and broke, wanders through his three sisters' homes, inadvertently revealing that each has as much to answer for as their brother who sold dope to a policeman in uniform. Each episode yields laughs, but the many parallel screw-ups don't build to the kind of crescendo the film needs; it may be no worse than Rudd's latest vehicle, How Do You Know, but it's yet another leading role that fails to live up to Rudd's talent, and it's hard to imagine it approaching the commercial success of his more high-concept studio comedies.

The script doesn't play to anyone's strengths, in fact, requiring each member of this top-flight cast to play a part slightly (sometimes more than slightly) duller and less likeable than his usual fare. Sisters played by Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel and Elizabeth Banks are, respectively, de-sexed, dumbed-down, and unbelievably self-centered; their ample flaws might have been humanized if it weren't for the contempt they show their only brother. READ: Elizabeth Banks Q&A

The filmmakers aren't so kind to Ned, themselves. Screenwriters Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall try to have it both ways by assigning a "give everyone the benefit of the doubt" philosophy to his seemingly low-IQ behavior, but this rationale appears in just one small chunk of dialogue, and hardly explains the clueless things they require Ned to say and do.

Much is made of a dog named Willie Nelson, stolen from Ned by his hateful hippie ex-girlfriend and seemingly the only entity (aside from his alcoholic Mom) who offers the kind-hearted lug the unconditional love he deserves. Willie serves as the fulcrum of the movie's ludicrous redemption sequence, but more persuasive evidence of Ned's soulfulness languishes on the sidelines -- a friendship with his overprotected nephew, derailed by an accident so dumb viewers might decide, protestations notwithstanding, that this movie really doesn't think much of its hero.

Editor's note: This film was reviewed under the title "My Idiot Brother."