Paul Rudd is hardly an idiot. He’s a sly combination of leading man and comic goofball, but there’s nothing Rudd can do to salvage the 2011 comedy “Our Idiot Brother.” The film surrounds Rudd with comedy heavy hitters who take turns striking out for 90-odd minutes.
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“Brother,” available this week on home video, tees up a story laden with comic potential. A lovable slacker (Rudd) imposes himself on his three dysfunctional sisters, all of whom could learn to embrace life as their ne’er do well brother does.
The film doesn’t play the “Idiot” card for all its worth, nor do we get the kind of droll humor indie films so often supply. Instead, it’s a predictable yarn that all but abandons both its star and terrific supporting players.
Rudd stars as Ned, a hirsute dreamer who gets arrested for selling pot to a police officer. It’s entrapment 101, but it also shows how naive poor Ned is. When he gets out of jail he’s taken in by his harried sister Liz (Emily Mortimer), a housewife married to an unctuous documentary filmmaker (Steve Coogan).
Liz would love to kick Ned out, but their fellow siblings, played by Elizabeth Banks and Zooey Deschanel, want no part of Ned. But the sisters could take a page from Ned’s dog-eared playbook, one that has him sharing his blissful worldview with everyone who crosses his path.
Rudd’s Ned isn’t a stoner in the grand Jeff Spicoli tradition. He just assumes the best of everyone even when given plenty of evidence to the contrary. He’s so trusting he hands a stranger on a subway car a wad of cash to hold while he cleans up a spill. It’s that benevolent spirit that transforms the lives of his sad siblings. You can see that redemptive arcs coming the moment the opening credits roll, but couldn’t the film offer a few modest surprises along the way?
Ned’s mental clarity zaps the humor out of moments when a Jim Carrey-esque touch would be more than welcome. Instead, we’re left with stale hippie jokes, a flat steam room sequence and some minor love stories barely given enough screen time to matter.
Banks and Rudd clicked in “Role Models,” but they don’t spark here except during a brief bout of physical violence when Ned inadvertently hurts her character’s career.
The film’s rich cast includes two “Parks and Recreation” stars – Rashida Jones and Adam Scott – plus feisty scene swipers Kathryn Hahn and T.J. Miller. Still, only a few guilty smiles emerge from the less than inspired script. Some exchanges feel like on-set improv, and their organic quality gives the film a flicker of life.
And where was the PC police with lines like this?
“What you don’t understand is my brother is a retard.”
Rudd could make a stroll through the park something deliciously comic, and he’s clearly having a blast underneath that scratchy beard. His joyous mood gets consistently squashed by the story’s rote conclusions about never taking life too seriously.
The DVD includes a commentary track from director Jesse Peretz, plus deleted and extended scenes and a perfunctory “making of” docu-feature letting the cast extrapolate on their characters.