Our idiot brother is Ned (Paul Rudd), a sort of Chauncey Gardner for the über-ironic age; a man so bafflingly guileless that he confuses and discombobulates everyone he encounters, he’s a fish destined to be out of water. Having been kicked off his produce farm by his girlfriend after a stint in jail for a wonderfully ridiculous indiscretion, Ned moves to New York City to hit up his ambitious, emotionally detached sisters (played by, in a triumph of hipster assemblage, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer) for help. What follows won’t be too surprising to the veteran of the life-affirming family dramedy of manners: Ned initially irritates the hell out of everyone only to eventually provoke a much-needed familial catharsis.
Yes, that old number, and I admit that I’m tired of films that turn poor people into mystical simpleton saviors of the chic and moneyed. But Our Idiot Brother, so slight as to be nearly nonexistent, coasts ably on the charisma of its performers, particularly Rudd, who seems chemically indisposed to being unlikable. Rudd is a rare contemporary actor who can fully embody decency without turning into a simp, as he has a prickliness that lends that decency texture. Simply put, Rudd shows you the struggle of being decent, of transcending your own doubts and limitations in the aim of achieving your own fantasy of your best self—a strength that’s particularly evident in a striking moment near the end of the film when Ned finally blows his top.
Yet that scene only underlines what’s missing from the rest of the movie; one can’t help but wish that there were a little more meat and contrast to this thing. The premise lends itself to a tougher comedy, and Our Idiot Brother might’ve been funnier if it were at least occasionally given to exploring the possibility that Ned’s stoner-everyman brand of perpetual slackitude is merely his fashion of dodging the sort of emotional intimacies and commitments that are broadly established as anathema to his sisters. At the end of the day, Our Idiot Brother is basically a sitcom with good actors, but, like its hero, it’s pleasant and affable enough. Just don’t bank on actually being able to recall it this time next year or perhaps even next week.
The image is generally decent but a little soft, and the whites tend to have a bit of a glare that I'm assuming is unintended. The mix offers no readily obvious problems though, the voices are synched well, and the various sound effects are layered correctly with the score.
Skippable. The commentary by director Jesse Peretz is generous with gushy exclamations over his terrific cast but ultimately dull and rife with anecdotes (i.e. this was based on Paul's tendency to do that, Elizabeth and Paul go so far back) typical to the making of a film among mostly friends, and that might unintentionally account for the film's occasionally cloying, cozy, in-joke quality. The deleted scenes aren't notable except for the alternate ending, which ties up the various plot threads with more satisfaction and economy than the finale the filmmakers ultimately went with. The making-of featurette, meanwhile, is standard back-patting puffery.
Our Idiot Brother is likable enough, but you don't really need to see it.