Review - "Our Idiot Brother"

I am, if nothing else, a planner. I think ahead, do my research, and put together an agenda, whether in my head or in written form, for just about anything. It doesn’t really matter if what I’m planning for is something life altering (like a career move) or something as frivolous as seeing a film. If I’m going to the movies, I plan ahead and figure out the what, when, and where just like I would if I was trying to determine a course of action regarding a major medical procedure. And when my plan gets derailed, I’m starting to believe that whenever possible, it’s better to just go home, reboot, and come up with another plan rather than forge ahead. In other words, the next time I head to the theater to see “The Help” and it’s sold out, I’m headed home to watch “24” reruns rather than going to see “Our Idiot Brother” instead.

“Our Idiot Brother” begins with Ned (Paul Rudd), a genuinely nice, simpleminded hippie making the unfortunate mistake of selling weed to a (uniformed) police officer. Eight months later, after being release from prison on good behavior, Ned finds that in his absence, his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) has left him and taken control of all his possessions, leaving him homeless and dog-less. Unsure of what to do with his life, Ned begins jumping from couch to couch, crashing with his sisters (Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks, and Zooey Deschanel) and intruding on their assorted social and professional lives. Despite his good heart, Ned manages to wear out his welcome with each of his sisters and likewise, each of his sisters manage to let him down in some way or another, forcing Ned to come to grips with reality and make some tough choices.

On paper, the makers of “Our Idiot Brother” did a number of things right. They assembled an outstanding and diverse cast. It doesn’t seem possible that a film that features Rudd, Deschanel, Banks, and Adam Scott could fail. Rudd, while not what I would call a movie star, has shown the ability to carry a film and has wide ranging appeal. They kept the production budget extremely low ($5 million) keeping monetary expectations low. And they cut a set of outstanding trailers that pegged “Brother” as a fun but sensitive R-rated comedy that could be a breath of fresh air in a summer so heavily packed with less sophisticated comedies.
Would you trust this guy with the direction of your film?
Unfortunately, movies aren’t made by what you see on the IMDB profile. If you will allow me a generic sports metaphor, “that’s why they play the game.” From the outset, “Our Idiot Brother” is one uncomfortable misfire after another. Outside of Ned, none of the characters are likeable or relatable in the slightest, creating an immediate and awkward disconnect with the audience. They are also uncommonly shallow and one-dimensional and their relationships with one another reflect that, especially when the sisters are involved. The actors almost across the board seem somewhat lost and aimless which is (clearly) an indictment of director Jesse Peretz, best known for his work on “The Ex” (yikes). Rudd is able to create passable chemistry with a number of supporting actors (especially Scott and T.J. Miller), but his interactions with Banks, Deschanel, Mortimer, and Rashida Jones (who plays the girlfriend of Deschanel) range from unsatisfying to downright depressing. The way in which Ned is treated by his family occasionally strays into the territory of being cruel. Even so, the inevitable change, when Ned’s sisters realize how poorly they’ve treated him is too easy and too sudden to hit home, leaving the distinct taste of underdevelopment in the audience’s mouth.

Still, the greatest crime “Our Idiot Brother” commits is its overall lack of humor. I must be honest: I’m an easy laugh. I like dark comedy, physical comedy, witty comedy, and stupid comedy. I’m the guy you want in the room when you’re telling a joke because the odds are stacked in your favor in terms of getting a laugh. So I think it’s a bad sign when I can sit through a comedy without having a good hearty laugh or two and “Our Idiot Brother” didn’t provide that. I wasn’t alone in my laughlessness, either. I cannot remember seeing a true comedy that elicited less laughs from the audience as this one did. It was almost silent in my theater as one “joke” after another failed to land. It was a truly uncomfortable situation for us all and I felt like everyone in the room had the same thought: “So…when is this going to get funny?”

Without question, Paul Rudd is the best part of “Our Idiot Brother” and his performance is solid enough. But the film falls apart around him scene by scene. In the end, you’re just left to wonder what the point of all this is in the first place. I really wanted to like this film but it simply is not smart, is not funny, and is not quirky enough to recommend.

Grade: C

I just created the word “laughlessness”,