Notable Cast: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Rashida Jones, Emily Mortimer, Adam Scott, T.J. Miller, Steve Coogan
Review: From the start I knew Our Idiot Brother was going to be an exercise in how much could Paul Rudd charm our pants off. His persona was built to embody the do no wrong hippie man-child Ned, and the script was obviously written with Paul in mind. The challenge here was though, could the writers remember all the other characters Ned interacts with and avoid creating nothing but a Paul Rudd character piece? Yes and no. The obvious statement here is yeah, Rudd plays the title character, so he has to be the focus of the film. But when other characters feel under utilized and under developed, it makes you remember there’s a world outside Rudd; something the writers also may have forgotten. Much like Ned’s outlook on life, sometimes the best of intentions can lead to undesirable of consequences. Our Idiot Brother isn’t marriage ending bad at all, but also isn’t Willie Nelson good either.
In Ned’s (Rudd) mind, if people are given the chance to prove themselves, they’ll often rise to the occasion with the best of intentions. One day while Ned is selling his fresh produce at a local market, a cop inquires if Ned can supply another type of organic substance. Mind you, the cop is in uniform and all, but Ned being the generous man he is buys the officer’s sob story and slips him the drugs. Of course he’s arrest on the spot and hauled away to jail. When Ned is release, he finds his life turned upside down. Ned loses his job at the farm, his girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn) leaves him for new hippie Billy (Miller), and he’s kicked off his farm land residence. With no money or direction, Ned is forced to move back home with his mother, but is elated to see his sisters again as well. Miranda (Banks), Natalie (Deshcanel), and Liz (Mortimer) welcome back Ned with open arms, but also now have their own lives to run. Trying to return to the simpler times of nothing but a rural family enjoying each others company, Ned tries living with each one of the girls. But he also finds out not everyone shares his same open attitude, as he innocently struggles to respect other people’s lives. Poor Ned is only doing what he knows, but unfortunately not everyone has the same wholesome values as our good-hearted main character.
With a supporting cast just as talented as our charming lead Paul Rudd, it was heartbreaking to see their stagnant characters. Deschanel and Jones play a lesbian couple, Scott and Banks have that awkward best friends that dig each other vibe going on, and Steve Coogan plays Mortimer’s stuck up documentary filming husband. It’s sad when all those big names are shown up by Kathryn Hahn (The Goods/Step Brothers) and T.J. Miller (Cloverfield/She’s Out Of My League) though, playing Rudd’s ex-girlfriend and new boyfriend respectfully. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not downplaying anything the two lesser knows have done in the past, especially Miller who I personally believe is a huge up and coming comedic star, but they both outplay any of the real heavy hitters who have slayed us time and time again. Coogan didn’t have his usual witty spark, Deschanel’s flighty mannerisms were played up entirely too much, and Jones’ charm was non-existent. Mortimer, Banks, and Scott on the other hand were better suited for their roles, as both Banks and Scott excel at being characters on the more dickish side. But even then, the competing star power was too cumbersome for Our Idiot Brother to handle alone. I wish the film could have run an hour longer for detail’s sake, as we aren’t given everything necessary in the story.
Obviously, the make or break aspect of the film was going to be the character of Ned himself. The script was set up to be Paul Rudd’s show to steal, as we know he’s capable of doing. Everything about Rudd fit this character, be it the relaxed vibe he gives off or his charmingly tender persona; Rudd did earn his place as Ned. Not only was Ned funny, but his personality was a most intriguing mix of both stupidity and innocence. Rudd channeled his deepest inner child to crank out the emotions for Ned and gave us a character who even when complicating the lives of all around him, makes us still want to root for the lovable loser. Lessons not only in good behavior were taught by Ned, but about appreciating the simplest of events and enjoying every day above ground to the fullest. If there’s one single reason to see Our Idiot Brother, not surprisingly it’s Paul Rudd.
I had interesting insight into the film though, as my mother partook in a test screening of Our Idiot Brother; she absolutely loved that version. Her, and two other people in a packed theater that is. So, she decided to see it again, curious about what editing changes were made. She again enjoyed it, but found instances where the film shifted the focus away from an overall moral of the story type manner to a more Hollywood happy ending. To me, the film spoke to the overarching ideal that life should be lived to our best potential. Love, peace, and all that jazz. But, people aren’t happy with these grand open realizations, and instead need a straight forward ending that shows Ned himself had a happy ending. That wasn’t the point of the film though. The happy ending was that, well, all the characters were happy. The original ending showed Ned simply riding off into the sunset, like a wandering hero off to help the next group of troubled individuals. That was the point: it was time to move on and no matter where Ned went he’d bring his cheerful demeanor with him. But the people spoke, and audiences apparently needed that concrete spoon-fed evidence that yes, don’t worry, there’s a happy ending and you can sleep soundly knowing Ned himself found happiness! Pleasing viewers with cliffhangers and open-ended closings is becoming harder and harder, mainly because the average viewer barely has the attention span to see the whole film anymore. Lazy writing, spoon-fed stories, cookie-cutter plots, and dumbed down scripts are destroying the depth in movies for most; Our Idiot Brother being only one of many.
Final Rating: 6.5 rhubarb slips out of 10