Paul Rudd plays Ned, a Mr. Nice Guy unsuited for life outside of his organic farm. When he innocently sells marijuana to a uniformed policeman he is thrown in jail. Unfortunately in his absence his hippie girlfriend found a new boyfriend. His three sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Dechanel and Emily Mortimer) take turns housing him, but in each case his willingness to believe the best in people causes chaos.
Richard: *** 1/2
Mark: *** 1/2
Richard: Mark, Our Idiot Brother is a low key indie comedy with a much different feel from the movies that made Rudd famous. His Apatow years have been spent doing broad comedy in movies like The 40 Year Old Virgin, but this is more character based — and less funny. There are laughs here, but instead of going for the jokes Rudd is concentrating on playing the character and allowing the humour to flow naturally from him and the situations. Did that work for you?
Mark: Most definitely! I was worried — based on the title, the poster, the trailer, and the Apatow DNA — that this would be nothing but silly slapstick. But it turned out to be a nicely tuned comedy of manners about the clash between bourgeois and counterculture values. The irony of the title is that the Rudd character is anything but an idiot. Like the ’80s movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills, the hippie outsider upsets the domesticity of those around him, but somehow improves everyone’s lives in the process. Rudd is great, and so is the rest of the cast, don’t you think?
RC: I thought so too. Banks, Dechanel and Mortimer each bring a different flavour to their roles as the sisters. Banks is a driven writer with sketchy ethics, Dechanel a free-ish spirit with commitment issues while Mortimer plays a mousy mom. They all stand in stark contrast to the innocence of their brother but their presence buoys, and gives heart to, the film’s family first message.
MB: One thing I really liked about the film is that it completely nailed the Hudson Valley neo-hippie movement in all its charm and hypocrisy. It’s a subculture ripe for satirizing, but it hasn’t been done much until now, so it felt fresh. Deschanel’s weird bohemian lifestyle also felt original and contributed to the indie feel of the film. But I have to admit, as much as I enjoyed watching it, it’s a flimsy movie and it didn’t stay with me.
RC: I sort of agree. I think it’s a likeable comedy elevated by a strong cast who bring empathy to characters who, in less experienced hands, might not have had any.
MB: Only the last 10 minutes felt rushed, with characters changing their motivation for no discernible reason at all. It felt like some scenes had been edited out. But overall, it was a good way to spend 90 minutes in the dark.