In a summer full of R-rated comedies, Our Idiot Brother stands out as something of a novelty– a comedy that’s (shockingly) not chock-ful of raunch or unabashed profanity. Sure, there are some risque moments, but this is a movie that you could take your mother to; it’s sweet, it’s funny, and it’s as refreshing as anything to hit screens in a while.
Paul Rudd is Ned, the idiot in question– a hippie organic farmer who lands himself in jail for selling a bag of pot to a uniformed police officer. When he gets out, he returns to his farm, only to find that his lady-friend (Kathryn Hahn) has shacked up with an even bigger idiot (T.J. Miller) and also refuses to give Ned his dog (named Willie Nelson) back.
With nowhere left to go, Ned first tries living with his mom (Shirley Knight), but then he ends up crashing with each of his three sisters in turn. Slowly but surely, the women’s lives spiral downhill, with Ned being the common thread. Fear not, though– good ol’ Ned has a knack for always seeing the best in people and cutting through the crap, so everyone’s story ends on a blissfully happy note (hey, it’s a comedy… what did you expect?)
Our Idiot Brother is a very simple, almost mindless romp that relies on an at-times-hilarious script and an even better cast. Rudd, who finally gets his turn to shine after being relegated to supporting roles for so long, is perfectly goofy as an eternal optimist who has a way with people… all people. Whether he’s chatting up the neighbor (Adam Scott) of career-driven sister Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) or bouncing on a trampoline with the young son (Matthew Mindler) of frumpy sister Liz (Emily Mortimer), Ned’s shiny happiness is infectious (in a good way).
The rest of the stellar cast includes the great (and, yes, adorable) Zooey Deschanel as Natalie (the hipster-lesbian sister) and Rashida Jones as her lawyer girlfriend.
First-time screenwriter (and Vanity Fair contributing editor) Evgenia Peretz has put together a fun story that has equal amounts of mainstream comedy and indie-flick quirkiness, and her brother Jesse does an admirable job in directing his first big-time feature.
Our Idiot Brother sometimes feels a little too silly with too-convenient resolutions, but those can largely be overlooked when all’s said and done. It’s much easier to just sit back and enjoy Ned for all that he is– an eternal bit of sunshine with a spotless mind.
@popcollin is the resident movie critic at Essex Cinemas in Essex, VT, and Cumberland 12 in Plattsburgh, NY.