Our Idiot Brother Review
By Bret Dorman
2011 hasn’t been the best year for comedies. Most everything that has come out has been lame or bad. Even the good stuff is good once and by the end of the year will end up being pretty forgettable.
Our Idiot Brother may be a little too sappy and conventional, but somewhere in this mountain of mundane comedy, the cast and crew managed to strike gold.
The Story: Ned (Paul Rudd) comes home to live with his three sisters; the workaholic Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), the unconfident Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), and timid Liz (Emily Mortimer). Ned means well, but ends up screwing everything up. Oh Ned! Also, the dog’s name is Willie Nelson.
This is something that I find myself saying about a lot of movies. Perhaps I should just write a pice on it and retire it from my reviews all together? But Our Idiot Brother is formulaic. It’s filled with some quick and easy laughs that are unoriginal. It’s very specifically made to make you feel good using things we’ve seen in a bunch of other movies.
And I’m okay with that.
There’s something about a generic formula and easy comedy stereotypes that makes it forgivable, even enjoyable, if done right. I’m not sure what it is or how to describe it, which is silly because my ‘job’ as a writer/film critic should be to explain how I feel about movies.
Here’s my quick answer: Heart. This movie has heart. A genuine feel. They don’t overdo it when they don’t need to and sometimes that can feel like they are holding back, but they always do what seems right.
Ned is a guy who is very honest with people. And sometimes that honesty can get him into trouble. This movie isn’t about what wacky situation Ned can get into though. It doesn’t sulk in his misery. Partly because he isn’t effected by his own trouble-makings and partly because this movie is about everyone else and how they deal with Ned.
The cast is really great. I didn’t know quite the caliber of cast this movie had till the opening credits. The sisters and their significant others are all great. What it really comes down to is timing. Everyone plays their part and has an odd trait about them or so, but the comedy really comes in timing. I wish this movie could have been pulled back a little more (another complaint I make often) and let the actors really play together, but the editing is good enough to really let the timing come through. And comedy is all about… yes, you guessed it, timing.
Even though the cast is great, it’s easy to pick my favorite. Adam Scott as Jeremy (the workaholic Miranda’s neighbor) was phenomenal. Seeing him and Rudd together on screen and their chemistry was one of the comedic highlights of the year. Why isn’t this man in more stuff? He’s good looking and extremely aware of his talents and comedic sensibilities in a confident but not too cocky way. I definitely wanted to see more of him. This film clocks in at 90 minutes, which is the perfect length for the story that is being told. But if they wanted to take a 10 minute diverging side story that featured Scott and Rudd just goofing off for no reason I would have been more than happy with that.
As far as Rudd goes, he’s in a lot of great stuff. If he is a supporting character he is always awesome. If he is a main character, his responsibilities shift and his movies usually can’t give him the material to highlight what he is best at while maintaining all the other elements for a good movie. Long story short, Paul Rudd is always good, even if the movie isn’t. I was worried about Our Idiot Brother because of the silly premise, sort of stupid title, and ultra gimmicky posters. But Rudd, as per usual, played the role just as it needed to be played.
As I mentioned, the movie never really embellishes on the demise of the main character. They put him in awkward situations or make him do something inappropriate but it’s not from his doing or to his detriment. Unlike, let’s say Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ned causes trouble for others only because they set themselves up for trouble. As they get madder and madder at him, the movie builds up to a moment where Ned shows a little more awareness and frustration than he is used to and even then he is still pretty nice about being angry.
That’s not to say this movie isn’t without faults. As I said its pretty generic at times. Even in its ‘indie’ quirky sense it seems like territory we’ve seen. Rashid Jones’ butch-hipster lesbian is a little confusing at first and any movie that features two girls kissing for comedic effect while trying to establish them in a real relationship has got to get some priorities straight. Either you are trying to display the homosexual lifestyle realistically (although Zooey Deschanel and Rashida Jones as lesbians is definitely something from one of my dreams) or you are exploiting it for laughs. It’s really hard to do both at the same time.
In Conclusion, if you aren’t a film snob like me the heartwarming aspect of this movie will be sure to warm your heart with no problems. If you aren’t a comedic snob like me this movie will make you laugh at least once in every scene for one reason or another. But if you are a film and comedic snob like me that movie is missing just a little extra something special to make it a true classic (but I didn’t think just missing ‘true classic’ status would have been this film’s biggest problem going in).
Final Grade: B+