Despite being an idiot, you can’t help but like himBottom Highlights, Movie Review Thursday, August 25th, 2011
MOVIE REVIEW: Paul Rudd makes me happy like few actors do. He’s in two movies I adore, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and two that I really adore, The Object of My Affection and Clueless. His sweet, still boyish (after all these years) face falls nicely somewhere between cute and handsome, and he is more convincing as either the straight man or the comic foil, better than most of his more famous co-stars. Will Ferrell, Steve Carell and Seth Rogen are better comedians than actors, while Rudd is an actor who is really funny. Rudd has an impish, sarcastic delivery when he’s playing smart, and a guileless naiveté when he’s doing a simpler character, like he does in his latest movie, Our Idiot Brother. He’s always likeable, sometimes very likeable.
Ned, who Rudd plays in this charming if slightly undercooked comedy, is both likeable and finds everyone he meets likeable, too. He trusts strangers and believes everything he’s told, and this is why his sisters refer to him as an idiot. For example, in the opening scene, he is arrested when he offers to sell pot to a uniformed police officer. After he gets out of jail early for good behavior, his parole officer introduces himself to Ned like this. When Ned asks why the parole officer is talking so slowly, the parole officer says that anyone who would sell pot to a uniformed police officer must be retarded. “I get that a lot,” Ned replies, smiling cheerfully.
Ned is so nice and so sweet, it’s hard to understand how anyone could be cruel to him, but his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) is. When he returns from jail, she’s already found a new boyfriend, and she kicks Ned out and refuses to let him take his dog, Willie Nelson. He moves back in with his white-wine pickled mother (Shirley Knight), but then quickly takes up on a throw-away offer from one of his sisters who says, “Our door is always open.” Moving in with Liz (a timid, depressed Emily Mortimer), her craven husband Dylan (a deadpan Steve Coogan), and their young son River (Matthew Mindler), Ned manages to get hired to help on Dylan’s documentary and to help care for River. Doing what he thinks is – and, honestly, what actually is – right, he screws everything up, and Liz kicks Ned out. So, he goes to live with another sister, Miranda (Elizabeth Banks, looking entirely too much like Parker Posey), a tightly wound and cynical magazine writer. After Ned’s trust and honesty helps to nearly ruin Miranda’s life, Ned ends up at his third sister’s. Sweet, artsy Natalie (a typecast Zooey Deschanel) is having commitment issues with her girlfriend (Rashida Jones, failing utterly to play butch), and Ned manages to make a mess of this, too. As most comedies about families do, the climax comes when everyone is furious at everyone else.
Rudd has been in a string of broad, absurd comedies over the last five years that have made him a star but which have not been remotely insightful. Our Idiot Brother does not have the depth of a good Woody Allen or the painfully strong laughs of Judd Apatow’s best, but I appreciated the moral center of the film. Ned may be an “idiot” but he’s also an intensely good person, better than anyone else around him. Director Jesse Peretz, working from a mostly cliché-free screenplay by his sister Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall, keeps this highly populated story propelled at a nice pace, but still allows the rather impressive cast moments to improvise, make faces, grumbles and asides. Rudd, however, is the star of this show, and he is the center of all the laughter. And since he’s just so damn likeable, so is the film.
Our Idiot Brother
Directed by Jesse Peretz
Written by David Schisgall and Evgenia Peretz
Starring Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel and Elizabeth Banks
Opening Aug. 26
At your local multiplex
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