Our Idiot Brother

idiot-bro-2

B+

Like its main character, Our Idiot Brother is an easy-going, breezy film that you can’t help but love. As a comedy, it’s a film that doesn’t have a lot of highs, but doesn’t have any lows, and its stellar cast makes it infinitely watchable.

At one point in the film a character tells Paul Rudd’s Ned “I’m laughing at the story, not laughing at you,” which fits as a pretty good theme for Our Idiot Brother. There are multiple moments where you’ll shake your head and wonder what the hell Ned is doing, he is after all an “idiot,” but the film shows an admiration for his cheery ways. It showcases the hippie/stoner culture without ever being mean to it. Paul Rudd’s performance helps this, and he is in top form — just different enough from his every-day character to feel fresh, while delivering the likable qualities we’ve become accustomed to.

The film interestingly doesn’t have much of a plot, which seems pretty different for a comedy of this kind. There aren’t any big events that we are leading up to or a high-concept to which we are tied. By the end of the film, Ned does learn a little about himself and how to interact in the world, but we don’t see the cliched scene where the light-bulb goes off in his head. Normally this could be seen as a lack of vision, but this actually works in the film’s benefit, mirroring the transient nature of Ned.

In a lot of ways, the form of the film follows a slice-of-life drama, interjected with situational and character comedy. As a quasi-slice-of-life comedy, one thing that has to be nailed is the relationship of the characters. Fortunately, Our Idiot Brother indeeds nails it. The family dynamic is believable and the film handles both the arguments and the love well. Even if each sister is a definite “type,” the family feels real and the casting of each sister with strong character actresses helps us understand them as people, not caricatures.

Throughout my life, I’ve encountered people like Ned. He may be a little dimwitted, but he’s well-intentioned, always fun and never judgemental — so why should we judge him? As a movie character, he may not have a traditional arc, but Ned is someone most people wouldn’t mind spending a few hours with.

tags: Elizabeth Banks, Jesse Peretz, Our Idiot Brother, paul rudd, zooey deschanel

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