A pothead hippie idealist who was stupid enough to sell drugs to a uniformed police officer is released from jail and integrates not-so-seamlessly into the lives of his three sisters in Our Idiot Brother, a surprisingly thoughtful comedy that doesn't stir up a lot of laughs but is genuinely enjoyable nonetheless.
Paul Rudd plays the title character, a bearded, Jesus-esque man whose simple, thoughtful but overly honest ways cause conflict within his family, but ultimately bring them closer together. He's an idiot savant, too stupid to understand how others will react to what he says and does, but just smart enough to press the right buttons that eventually lead to satisfactory results. It may sound like a feel-good sap-fest, but director Jesse Peretz, working off a script by David Schisgall and Evgenia Peretz, adds in just enough spice to keep things interesting.
Rudd refreshingly plays against type in the movie. He's typically the straight man, but in Our Idiot Brother he's the stupidhead, the moron who just can't seem to catch a break and who annoys everyone around him. It's not a character Rudd should play often - he is much better as the straight-laced one - but he brings enough charm to the role to be believable, even fun. Even when he does stupid things, it's easy to buy into the fact that he means well.
His three sisters are played well by Elizabeth Banks, as a Vanity Fair journalist who is willing to stretch the rules to land her first big story, Zooey Deschanel, as a bisexual free spirit who has cheated on her longtime girlfriend (Rashida Jones, Rudd's co-star in I Love You, Man), and Emily Mortimer, who plays a disheveled mother and wife in a loveless marriage. Each actress, including Jones, plays her part well. Deschanel and Jones are especially good.
Though the movie is rated R and stars several actors who have appeared in the recent spate of Judd Apatow-branded comedies, Our Idiot Brother is in a field of its own. It's a comedy and is at times funny, but it isn't edgy in the same way Apatow's movies are. It's a feel-good, laid back movie where things work themselves out without much melodrama or craziness. There aren't many hilarious scenes, or zany supporting characters, or zany plots for that matter. Our Idiot Brother is just an entertaining, enjoyable movie.
Our Idiot Brother is worth seeing, but its lack of edge isn't going to win it any longtime fans. It's fun to watch, but once the end credits roll there isn't much reason to watch it again, or even recommend it to friends. It could have been funnier and edgier without losing what makes it what it is, and for that reason Our Idiot Brother doesn't live up to its full potential. It's an enjoyable little movie, but it's still a little movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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