Our Idiot Brother
by Jef Burnham
Available November 29th, 2011 on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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When Our Idiot Brother works, it’s actually an incredibly touching picture. When it doesn’t, however, the narrative becomes muddled by the first-time screenwriting team’s attempts to maintain the one-note gag of Paul Rudd’s character’s titular idiocy, even at the cost of logic. Unfortunately, this happens surprisingly often for a film that boasts such an impressive array of acting talent as this.
As indicated above, Paul Rudd (I Love You, Man) stars as the idiot brother in question of three sisters played by the incredibly talented Emily Mortimer (Match Point), Zooey Deschanel ((500) Days of Summer), and Elizabeth Banks. What’s more, Rashida Jones (also of I Love You, Man), Steve Coogan (Hamlet 2), and Shirley Knight (Grandma’s Boy) also appear in the film. The female cast here constitutes a significant portion of my favorite actresses working today. I am therefore quite upset to have to report here that the film is something of a disappointment.
The plot centers on Ned (Rudd), released from jail after eight months of incarceration for selling weed to a uniformed police officer to find his girlfriend living with another man. Thus, he goes to stay with his family, first his mother and then his sisters in turn. Ultimately, Ned serves as a sort of well-meaning, if overly-trusting, hippie Mary Poppins who throws his sisters’ lives into turmoil and forces them to face their personal issues. This looks good on paper, sure, but suffers in execution. In order to perpetuate Ned’s categorical trust of everyone he meets, which accounts for the majority of the film’s humor, the writers forgo logic on more than one occasion. Each sister has some major conflict in her life, which Ned has no hand in save for the fact that he inadvertently brings it to light. Subsequently, things go awry for each sister and they nonsensically blame Ned for the consequences of the actions of others. When one sister’s husband has an affair, she blames Ned. When another sister cheats on her girlfriend with a man and gets pregnant, she blames Ned. As if this weren’t nonsensical enough, characters in the film are constantly entrusting Ned with tasks and information that they should know full-well he is incapable of completing competently or keeping to himself. This goes double for his sisters, who acknowledge constantly how much of an idiot he is and yet continue to rely on him. Both the humor and the conflict in the film rely on this contrivance to such an extent that it becomes exceedingly aggravating as you move into the climax.
Fortunately, the film closes on a high note with its absolute funniest scene saved for last and a blooper reel appearing onscreen during the credits. Special features include an audio commentary with director Jesse Peretz, a making-of featurette, and 4 deleted and extended scenes including an alternate ending.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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