Movie Review: Our Idiot Brother

Mike Finkelstein was working so hard to make something of himself, that he lost focus of who he was.  Then, a kind soul named Ned came along.  He wasn’t the brightest guy, but he definitely made a hell of an impact.  Here is Mike’s review of “Our Idiot Brother.”

PLOT: After being arrested for selling marijuana to a police officer, Ned (Paul Rudd) tries to get back on his feet with the help of his uptight sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer).  Soon enough, though, his innocent and almost childlike personality begins to drastically interfere with both their personal and professional lives.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  There’s something about Paul Rudd.  I don’t know what it is, but I feel like one night hanging with him at a random dive bar would be the coolest night of my life.  From Andy in WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER to Brian Fantana and Peter Klavin, he is the ultimate wingman/stoner/improver, and all around nice guy.  And now, we have another classic character to add to his list: Ned, the loveable, naïve, good intentioned stoner in OUR IDIOT BROTHER.  Doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t have its problems…

We start off the film with Ned at his fruit stand at a farmer’s market (he’s a biodynamic farmer…fits perfectly) being duped by a uniformed police officer into selling him some weed.  Ned at first smartly denies, but when he feels the cop really had a bad day, he flat out gives him the pot, and the officer insists on giving him something for it as a thank you.

This moment defines Ned through the movie.  Needless to say, it was a trap and Ned is arrested (most cooperative inmate four months running), but despite the incident, his purity and incorruptibility stays intact.  He greets everyone he meets with open arms, tries to do right in every situation (Jimmy Stewart multiplied by 1000), and literally, his ONLY goal is to get his dog, fittingly named Willy Nelson, back from his ex.

The rest of Ned’s family, however, is a different story.  Yes, we have his mother (Shirley Knight) who is just as naïve as him, but then, there are his three sisters, each of which have been jaded by reality and have their own life problem to deal with.  Liz (Emily Mortimer) is a housewife stuck in a loveless marriage to cheating, arrogant, and manipulative filmmaker, Dylan (Steve Coogan).  Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) is an aspiring writer for Vanity Fair who would sell her soul and morals for a cover story, and is blind to the fact that she’s perfect for her best friend and neighbor, Jeremy (Adam Scott).  Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) is the bohemian, live-for-the-moment type who cheats on her long-time girlfriend, Cindy (Rashida Jones) all because of personal insecurities.  Issues much?

Don’t get me wrong…OUR IDIOT BROTHER isn’t a bad movie by any means.  More of a THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT/DAN IN REAL LIFE comedy, it delivers a number of smart, funny moments, and is actually quite charming in its innocence and message instead of the usual Judd Apatow/Kevin Smith raunchiness. Rudd, usually cast as a cynic the past few years, constantly steals the show with how unaffected he is and you can’t help but smile and be motivated to try and treat life the same way.  At the same time, the dynamic between the sisters is very convincing and real, almost to the point that you could see your family in them.  It’s just that in its jumping back and forth to flesh out all these huge issues (all three of which seem strategically placed and conveniently completely different from one another), you can’t help but feel like you’re being directed.  Suddenly, you become aware of the steps of every character to get where they need to be, and it’s hard to believe everything could be wrapped up in such a neat little bow.

But you know what?  Maybe that doesn’t matter.  Maybe that’s not the point.  Because when you live in a rat-race type of world where everyone is trying so hard to find their way and find out who they are, maybe sometimes you need to sit back and enjoy the little things.  Maybe you need a bit of that Jimmy Stewart, Frank Capra sugar sprinkled throughout.  That’s the message of OUR IDIOT BROTHER, and it’s a good one.  And while the movie may have its flaws and may seem contrived and may drag at points (guilty of all three), the script feels real, every actor makes every character seem real, and it delivers its message without any fart or sex joke overload.  I respect that as a decent movie made.

GRADE: B

Mike’s LIKES:

1) Innocence/”Rise to the Occasion”: While everyone else is lying to themselves about who they are and their morals, Ned is the epitome of innocence.  All he gives is love, and he genuinely believes that if you just give a person a shot to do something good, they’ll “rise to the occasion”.  In comparison to everyone else around him, it’s beautiful to watch.  Which brings me to number two…

2) Knowing Your Identity: We are living in such a fast moving world today, that it’s hard to even find yourself without feeling like you’re being trampled by everyone else around you.  Here, we see those issues: lying to oneself, compromising your morals, etc, and confronting them head-on.  Put this with number one, and we have a beautiful message in the story

3) “Congrats on Your Win”: An adorable line that brought a smile to my face.  Ned is open to anything, and even at moments of complete ridiculousness, he still focuses on the best aspect available.

4) Willy Nelson: The dog is named Willy Nelson!  The dog is named Willy Nelson!  Soooo cute!

5) TJ Miller/Candles: Forget a female…These two are meant for each other.  The sequence completely reminded me of “You know how I know you’re gay?” except in a sweeter, naive way.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) CONTRIVED AND DRAGGING: Maybe it was because it kept switching between three sisters, their “significant others”, and all of Ned’s associates, but the film did drag at points.  Also, while all three sisters gave us something different, it almost seemed a bit contrived and too perfect…

EXTRA FACTS:

1) At least three scenes from the trailer were not included in the final film.

2) The title character was written with Paul Rudd in mind.

 

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