Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review of "Our Idiot Brother"

“Our Idiot Brother” features Paul Rudd as a congenial hippie named Ned with a penchant for getting himself and others into trouble despite his saint-like good will. One can even make a case that with his long hair and beard, Ned is a thinly-vieled Jesus clone. I’m sure if you graze through other reviews, someone already has.

At the start of the movie, Ned’s working at a farmer’s market with a cop who asks him if he could spare any pot. Ned responds that he’s not an idiot. The officer says, “Come on I’ve had a rough week” and prays on Ned’s compassion. When Ned feels sorry for the guy and decides to give him pot, he’s promptly arrested. That we’re supposed to believe a cop would devote his resources to stinging a recreational pot user is one of the biggest plot holes of the film. The scene might be read as thin social commentary on the War on Drugs, but it underlies the film’s basic question. Is the world an inherently fair place and would an inherently fair person succeed in it?
The characters are all pretty strong with Kathryn Hahn as a hateful hippie (that oxymoron is played for all its worth, don’t worry), Shirley Knight (Oscar-nominated in 1960 and 1962) as the clan’s matriarch and Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschannel, and Elizabeth Banks as the sisters. The three girls in particular boast an excellent chemistry and are well-drawn enough to avoid becoming clichéd. Paul Rudd also has great chemistry with TJ Miller and that becomes a most amusing bromance. My only complaint is that while Paul Rudd is many things, he doesn’t come off as that much of a stoner/hippie character. It feels like Rudd was the casting director’s back-up after Owen Wilson or Seth Rogen turned it down.

Overall, it’s a surprisingly good movie. I might even use the adjective endearing here.

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