"Our Idiot Brother" lives down to its title. The new comedy tells the story of a dysfunctional family dealing with their pot-smoking sibling, who stumbles through life thinking everyone should be as brutally honest and carefree as he is. Paul Rudd, who was great in 2009’s “I Love You, Man,” is completely wasted in this new film that may be one of the worst of 2011.
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Early on in “Brother,” Ned (Rudd) is arrested for selling marijuana to a police officer. The police officer is fully-uniformed and openly asks Ned about buying the illegal drug. I'm not sure why a police officer would try to sell drugs to someone while wearing his uniform but this officer believes that Ned is stupid enough to sell him pot.
After being released from prison, Ned starts living with family members. His ex-girlfriend has broken up with him and stolen his dog so he has nowhere else to go. Of course, Ned is more upset about losing his dog than his girl. He eventually moves in with his mother but later moves in with each of his sisters as well, who each have their own homes. One of his sisters is a married Mom (Emily Mortimer). Another one is a lesbian (Zooey Deschanel) living with her girlfriend, and his third sister (Elizabeth Banks) is an aspiring journalist who lives with a male roommate. The sisters share little in common except for their love for their dimwitted brother. Ned eventually becomes involved in each of their personal lives causing friction in their relationships with loved ones. Ned is brutally honest and as with other movies of this type, his honesty helps create issues for the people he loves.
One of my main problems with this story is its complacency. This story doesn’t try to do anything interesting with the formula of a strange character stirring up trouble with a group of people living supposedly-happy lives who discover that their lives aren’t as perfect as they seem. Ned inevitably gets into trouble, derails some relationships and finds himself being despised by his own siblings. However, as audiences know, there’s inevitably going to be a way for Ned to bring everyone together at the end. If this story had diverted from its formula in one significant or interesting way, it could have been well-done but instead, it settles for being cliched.
Much of the comedy from “Brother” is supposed to derive from the fact that people think that Ned, in all of his stupidity, is funny. Although I think Rudd tries to bring the character to life, he was never funny to me. He was always just a naive, bumbling fool who doesn't know when to distrust people. Even when he finds his brother-in-law standing naked around a woman that he is trying to "film" for his job, Ned doesn't understand that they are having an affair. His sister has to tell him the obvious truth. When he understands that, he reveals that he had his doubts about his brother-in-law's explanation for the incident but Ned trusts people at their word despite all of the evidence to the contrary.
It goes without saying that "Our Idiot Brother" wastes a talented cast. All of the characters are forgettable, including Ned. Paul Rudd can be funny and he seems to be trying here but the material doesn’t measure up. Rudd may have read the script and thought that Ned was both a complete idiot and a funny character. He was half right.