Our Idiot Brother Review
Have we reached a point where we expect too much out of comedies? Have we reached the point where being entertained and amused simply isn't enough for the average viewer?
With the performance of certain comedies this summer, both in the eyes of critics and at the box office, this definitely seems like the case. Maybe it's the fact that TV comedy is way too good these days (see: Louie or Curb Your Enthusiasm). Maybe movies like "Anchorman" and "The Forty-Year-Old Virgin" have spoiled the current generation of viewers; ironically both films starring Paul Rudd.
Simply put, this high expectation for comedy has had a major effect on comedies in the last couple of years. That's not to say that there are some bad comedies out there, and there definitely isn't any excuse for that, but so long as there's been comedy, there's been bad comedy. Seen a movie from the 80s recently? It just seems as if people are too resistant to what can definitely be good films, and in a lot of cases, that resistance is unfair.
This is definitely the case with "Our Idiot Brother". While the film has gotten modest-to-good reviews, and it had Hurricane Irene to deal with as well, the film didn't do so well at this weekend's box office, and I can't seem to tell why.
The negative reviews for the film seem to tell the same story that we hear way too often with these kinds of movies. It's uneven. The payoff isn't as big as it should be. It's contrived. It's the same old stoner film we've been watching since "The Big Lebowski".
Why can't people see past all that and realize that "Our Idiot Brother" is as sincere as its main character? Why can't they just enjoy a cute and good-natured comedy with great characters, great actors behind those characters, and a fun, if simple plot?
In the film, Paul Rudd plays Ned, a lovable loser who forgot to evolve with the rest of us following the sixties. Sporting a beard and long hair, Ned is coaxed into selling weed to a uniformed cop and goes to jail. He gets out early thanks to good behavior, only to find that his girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn, who's hilarious and should be in more things) has moved on and hasn't gotten around to telling Ned yet. Backed-up by her just-as-idiotic and bearded new boyfriend Billy (T.J. Miller, who should also be in more things), Janet stops Ned from taking his dog, Willie Nelson, and sends him on his way.
Ned turns to his family for work, shelter and support, and proceeds to ruin each of their lives thanks to his sincerity, honesty, and good nature which stops him from keeping his mouth shut more often than not.
Elizabeth Banks plays Miranda, one of his three sisters, a writer at Vanity Fair looking for her first big story. Zooey Deschanel is Natalie, his second sister, a lesbian dating Cindy (Rashida Jones) and confused about her sexuality, and Emily Mortimer is Liz, the third and final sister, a mother of two married to a douchey documentary filmmaker (Steve Coogan). Each of these women have their own problems and their own faults. All Ned really does is be himself, and be honest. So when they confide in him and he inevitably spills the beans, they get mad at him and send him along his way.
If you're looking for explosions or fight scenes, then this isn't the movie for you. Our Idiot Brother is a story of a dude too honest for his own good and his sisters, who may, in the end, turn out to be bigger idiots than he really is. It's a film about the lost art of honesty, truthfulness and sincerity, and how most of us have a little inherent bad inside of us. It's a tale that teaches us that if we were all a little like Ned when it came to keeping our secrets and telling others how we feel, we might be better off, even if that honesty often gets Ned into trouble, especially with the law.
There's definitely a level of depth in Our Idiot Brother that you don't often see in films of the type these days. It may not be to the point of it being a message. It may even come off as uneven at times, thanks to the lighthearted nature of much of the film. But that depth of the film is there, and it's very refreshing in a summer that was highlighted at the box office by a lot of shallow crap, especially in the comedy department.
So it's upsetting to see a film such as this one fail at the box office, no matter the reason. When the dust settles, even if you liked this movie, it'll likely end up being a little forgettable. But it's a quality film and a good time at the theaters in a day and age where expectations are set way too high and Hollywood doesn't even come close to matching them.
The plot is simple and effective, and it's more than strengthened by an amazing cast. Paul Rudd, of course, plays the lead as Ned, basically a more caring version of The Dude -- and, looking at his wardrobe, the Big Lebowski inspiration is definitely present. And if you like Paul Rudd, then you should like this film. While his past roles have definitely been variable, he plays exactly the type of character you'd expect him to play here. The bumbling buffoon who gets over using his charm and smile.
His sisters are well cast, as Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer are all well within their element. Beyond these four, the supporting cast of minor characters is phenomenal. Rashida Jones and Adam Scott are stars in the making. Steve Coogan is a very underrated character actor, as is Kathryn Hahn. And I don't think I need to express my love for T.J. Miller again. All of these actors and more are well placed in the film, and have plenty of good chemistry with each other -- especially Rudd, who has chemistry with everyone and shows it with his usual improvisational skills -- even if I would have rather seen more of a few of them.
Throw in a great soundtrack, some good gags, and -- this may sound weird coming from me -- an very well picked wardrobe for many of these actors and characters, and you have no reason not to watch "Our Idiot Brother" and have a good time. It won't have you clutching your insides laughing, nor will it have you questioning yourself and it for much longer than the time you spend in front of the screen, but it's a very well-grounded film at a time where too many comedies go for the raunchy and over-the-top gags, and uses the family dynamic very well in a more broad comedy.
"Our Idiot Brother" is a good way the summer of comedies, and receives a 7.5 out of 10 from Better With Popcorn.