It takes a fine comedic actor to play an idiot, and what a great one we have in Paul Rudd. Rudd has really made a name for himself in the comedy genre, ranging from supporting roles in films, such as “Anchorman,” “40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” to starring roles in “I Love You, Man” and “Dinner for Schmucks.” In the charming and lighthearted “Our Idiot Brother,” directed by Jesse Peretz (“The Ex”) from a debut script by his sister Evgenia Peretz and her husband David Schisgall, Rudd strikes comedy gold. Rudd effortlessly brings the naïveté and serene nature of his character to life.
Ned (Rudd) is a pot-smoking, mellow, well-meaning, honest and idealistic guy, working as an organic farmer. Ned is the type of guy who no matter the situation always sees the good in people. He believes, “… that if you put your trust out there … if you really give people the benefit of the doubt and see their best intentions, people will rise to the occasion.”
As the film begins Ned is selling organic produce with his dog, Willie Nelson, at an upstate N.Y. farmer’s market, when a uniformed police officer approaches Ned and asks if he knows where to buy some weed. Ned wisely replies, “… even if I did, do you really think I’d tell you?” But, when the officer informs Ned he has had a rough week, Ned agrees to sell a $20 bag of weed to the officer and is promptly arrested.
After spending eight months in the clink, Ned returns home to the farm, where he and his girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn) live. Upon arrival, Ned learns that Janet has a new boyfriend, Billy (T.J. Miller), and that he is no longer welcome on the farm. To make matters worse, Janet refuses to let Ned take Willie Nelson, a dog she cares nothing for, with him.
Needing a place to stay, until he can get his life back together and take his dog back from Janet, Ned takes turns living with his three sisters, Liz (Emily Mortimer), a mother of two, in a failing marriage to a snobby documentary filmmaker Dylan (Steve Coogan); Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), a budding journalist at Vanity Fair, desperately in need of a big story; and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), a bi-sexual, struggling comedian, in a relationship with New York City lawyer Cindy (Rashida Jones). Ned’s arrival and his relaxed attitude add an additional layer of chaos to his sisters’ already stressful lives.
On top of Rudd’s fantastic performance, we also get some quality performances from his supporting players. Mortimer (“Shutter Island”) is a woman devoted to her children, unwilling to admit her marriage is deteriorating. Coogan (“The Trip”) is good as Mortimer’s stuck-up husband, who has lost interest in his wife. Young Matthew Mindler does well as Mortimer and Coogan’s rambunctious son, fascinated with karate. The always stunning Banks (“The Next Three Days”) is effective as Ned’s bossy and ambitious sister. Adam Scott (TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) is great as Banks’ helpful neighbor and friend. Deschanel (contributed music to “Winnie the Pooh,” “Your Highness”), beautiful as always, is wonderful as a free-spirited woman, afraid of commitment. Jones (“The Social Network,” TV’s “Parks and Recreation”), dressed as a nerdy schoolboy, is perfect as Deschanel’s supportive girlfriend, who agrees to help Ned get his dog back.
However, it is the husband and wife screenwriting duo of E. Peretz and Schisgall, who deserve much of the film’s praise. E. Peretz and Schisgall supply the actors with well developed and very human characters. They also provide the film with some ridiculous and emotional scenes. One ridiculous scene involves Ned and Billy arguing over the meaning of “next Thursday.” A great emotional scene is when Ned has an angry outburst during a game of charades.
While, J. Peretz and cinematographer Yaron Orbach do not give us any noteworthy shots, they do show some expertise with photographing the film, choosing to use mostly bright colors, which seamlessly harmonizes the serene and naïve nature of Ned.
Complementing the laid-back charms of the film is the breezy score crafted by Eric D. Johnson and Nathan Larson. The film also features a soothing assortment of excellent songs, such as “Lightning Bug,” by the Fruit Bats; a reimagining of Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree,” by Johnson; “Beautiful,” by Carole King; three songs by Willie Nelson: “Midnight Rider,” “Ol’ Blue,” and “Wonderful Future.” Other standouts include, “Taking You With Me,” a song expressly written for the film by Mindy Smith and Daniel Tashian; and “Cool Yourself,” by Thao with The Get Down Stay Down.
“Our Idiot Brother” is a jovial and delightful film that like its central character, Ned, celebrates the good in people and trusts that if people are given the opportunity they will do the right thing.
(“Our Idiot Brother” is rated R for language and nudity. It can be seen at AMC Loews Jersey Gardens 20 and other nearby theaters.)
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