Review: Our Idiot Brother

daniel cohen reviews the new comedy starring Paul Rudd …

Plot: After getting released from prison for selling pot to a cop (Bob Stephenson), Ned (Paul Rudd) finds himself without a home. While a well intentioned, good natured guy, Ned can’t escape interfering with the lives of his three sisters as he moves from one to the next.

Wow. Talk about a movie that goes no where. Much like its protagonist, Ned, the film floats around aimlessly with no goal or purpose. That would be okay if it was funny, but the chuckles are far and few between. I feel like if this script was looked at by a film school professor, the student would be berated for having no three act structure, or sense of story. The movie barely gets by on its actors, but really, there’s no point to this whatsoever.

Paul Rudd is fine as Ned. He plays a man-child, but he’s not the Will Ferrell version who runs around in his underwear screaming incoherently. He just kind of wanders around, is a really nice guy, means well, but doesn’t know when to shut his mouth. And this is a huge issue I have with the movie. It’s painfully predictable. Whenever Ned shares a private moment with one character, he’ll blab about it to another without realizing the consequences. That’s how all the conflicts get started. It’s a painfully predictable film. While Ned isn’t the smartest bulb in the room, he does get blamed for almost everything when most of it isn’t his fault. I guess that’s the one point the film wants to make, but is that really something to make a movie about? Let’s feel bad for an unemployed moocher with good intentions? There’s no film here.

 

The highlight is easily the three actresses who play Ned’s sisters. The movie makes it very clear they are just as screwed up as he is, but for various reasons. It’s not possible to dislike Zooey Deschanel. She plays Natalie, the bisexual, sharp-witted monotone comedian. Then there’s Elizabeth Banks, the crazy, career-driven Miranda who’s probably the funniest character in the film. And finally, there’s Emily Mortimer, the sexually deprived Liz, mother of two, and who’s married to the world’s biggest douchebag, played by Steve Coogan.

We also have the mother played by Shirley Knight, who we only see in two or three scenes, but she might be the most interesting character in the whole movie. She’s always got a drink in her hand, and it’s probably because her four children are kind of train wrecks. I like all these characters; it’s just that there’s barely any story happening around them. And it’s like I said before: everything that happens to them is embarrassingly predictable. Besides a few subtle moments here and there, it just wasn’t funny enough to carry them through a lackluster story.

Speaking of a lack of comedy, what infuriated me the most about this film is the use of the word ‘man.’ You know, like, ‘Come on, man.’ You got to be kidding me. Really?! How many times have we seen the hippie stereotype character and his use of the word ‘man’ in film? And I’m not just talking every other scene. Ned is constantly saying ‘man’! Do they really think people are still going to find this funny? Maybe if you had someone like Christian Bale playing a pot smoking unemployed happy go lucky man child, I would find that humorous, but Paul Rudd doesn’t do it for me. He even names his dog Willie Nelson … oy vey. It’s even worse when Ned is talking with his ex-girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn) and her new boyfriend Billy (T.J. Miller). It’s just unbearable in those scenes, because they are just like him.

 

In a film where the story is hard to come by, it’s no surprise the ending is abrupt, and tries to shoehorn in a point in the last fifteen minutes. There’s no build up to anything. To the film’s credit, I did at least hold an interest to see what would ultimately happen with these characters. The second half is certainly a lot stronger then the first, which is fairly abysmal. It’s also really annoying that the first scene of the film is completely ruined by the trailer. Had I not known that was going to happen, the movie could have started off on the right foot.

Despite some solid characters and performances, and a couple funny scenes between Ned and his parole officer (Sterling Brown), the film isn’t bad, but it’s just pointless. It needed a lot more jokes to make up for its lack of plot. The way I feel about this movie is pretty much how I felt about Ned … whatever.

Rating: 5 out of 10 (Barely Passable Entertainment)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.