Ensemble casts full of very recognizable faces does not always make a fully successful movie. In the case of OUR IDIOT BROTHER I would say that it actually helps the film’s cause- but when it comes down to it the film is delightfully charming yet not as laugh out loud funny as I wanted it to be. A lot of time is spent developing each character and the dynamic of their relationship but resolving the issues that were built in a throw away manner.
Paul Rudd stars as the unassuming and extremely laid back, Ned. Ned is a bit too trusting and gullible as we see several times during the film but right off the bat a uniformed cop convinces Ned to sell him marijuana and is subsequently arrested. When he returns home from his jail term he finds his girlfriend has moved on and refuses access to his beloved dog Willie Nelson. He moves back home looking to make some money to rent a goat house at the farm he worked at and lives with each of his three sisters. He accumulates several incidents with his sisters that affect their personal lives to the point that Ned and his sisters have to re-evaluate their appreciation of each other.
OUR IDIOT BROTHER relies pretty heavily on the shoulders of the actors. Each of them brings a certain skill set and employs them with great skill. Paul Rudd is charming, nice and delightfully aloof- Zoey Deschanel is cute with an indie comedic sensibility- Elizabeth Banks is a great comedic actress but also has great dramatic chops and T.J. Miller has a great hippie redneck beard. What it succeeds most as is a character piece that happens to have some comedy in the mix more than a comedy with great actors. The actors are great, but their characters are fleshed out nicely and they interact with each other even better.
As a comedy OUR IDIOT BROTHER has a lot of decent chuckles but no real satisfying belly laughs. The drama in the film is toned down even more so as it only really rears its head toward the end and is gone before you know it. No dominant tone ever really takes hold throughout and as a result the film ends up being good but not great.
There are a lot of very good performances, but in the process of setting up all the different character arcs it feels like there are plotlines that end too abruptly and never get satisfying closure. The biggest ends up being the conflict involving Steve Coogan’s character. I kept waiting for a much bigger payoff or comeuppance for such a detestable character but sadly it never really happens. The film takes on the attitude of Paul Rudd’s character- it just wants to enjoy what’s there without making waves or starting unnecessary conflicts. That in and of itself is not a defining flaw that makes the film frustrating but does in some ways keep it from making a distinct impression.
OUR IDIOT BROTHER is a comedy that has extremely mean spirited characters but the film itself is very kind hearted and spreads a warm message. Very few things in life are as important or life affirming as family and you should never take them for granted no matter what bad things happen along the way. OUR IDIOT BROTHER is guilty of little but trying to put a care free smile on your face even at the expense of the big laugh. The movie is no doubt charming, unfortunately in the end it just isn’t the most memorable comedy of the year.