Our Idiot Brother, directed by Jesse Peretz, is a by the numbers comedy that is completely uneven. The most telling thing I can say about this film is that I watched it yesterday and am having problems remembering what actually happened in the movie. With such a great cast, I find it disappointing that it is so completely unforgettable. While the performances by Rudd, Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks, and Zooey Deschanel are all wonderful, the script just can’t live up to the talent involved.
After selling pot to a uniformed police officer, Ned gets sent to prison. When he is released, however, he returns home to find his girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn) has dumped him and is keeping his dog. He heads to the city to live with his mom, and then eventually bounces from sister to sister. Along the way, he proceeds to mess up each of their lives by telling everyone the truth. Of course, by the end they find that all of his truth telling was very wise and they love him all the more for it. See, a pretty much by the numbers comedy film.
While certain directors have a knack for making comedies that are funny and make you care about the characters (see Judd Apatow’s The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up or Paul Weitz’s American Pie), Jesse Peretz isn’t up to the challenge. While his direction is fairly solid, he doesn’t have the knack for filming comedy. He did manage to make me care about the characters, just couldn’t get me to laugh at their shenanigans.
Paul Rudd once again turns in a charming performance as the hippy Ned. As the title character and a somewhat fish out of water, though, he tends to deal with life in the big city the way he dealt with it on the farm. This is what leads to all the troubles with his sisters. His style of life is not the same as everyone else’s and they can’t seem to grasp that he is only doing what he thinks is right. That is simply by telling everyone the truth. He is never harsh or mean about it, like some people are, he’s just trying to be honest. Of course, honesty is not always the best policy and that is what gets him into trouble. The film then tries to shoehorn the character into different situations where the honesty will be the most problematic.
The three sisters also gave wonderful performances. The cute as a button Emily Deschanel plays Ned’s bi-sexual sister who’s trying to be a foul mouthed stand up comic and failing miserably. Elizabeth Banks plays a Vanity Fair writer who is getting her big break and is so focused on her career that she doesn’t realize she has feelings for her neighbor (Adam Scott), who also has feelings for her. Finally, Emily Mortimer plays Ned’s sister who is in a terrible marriage but fails to see it. These three are all well rounded characters who have their own personalities and completely sell them. You honestly believe that they could be Ned’s sisters and they act accordingly.
When all is said and done, though, the film is simply not funny. I don’t think I ever chuckled once while watching the film. While that can be okay in dark comedies, in a light hearted effort like this, it makes the film fall flat. Despite the wonderful performances, the film fails to live up to the potential of it’s cast, and that is a shame.
** out of ****
BIZZAM!! Fun Facts!
- Chris Pratt (soon to be Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, was originally offered the role of Billy (T. J. Miller), but had to leave the film due to scheduling issues.
- T. J. Miller was in Cloverfield as the guy who runs the camera. So you hear him talking a whole lot but see him very little.