Our Idiot Brother (2011)
5/10 Happy Hippies
Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, almost forgot I even saw it.
Our Idiot Brother is about a glass-half-full kinda guy who goes to prison for selling weed to a uniformed officer. After getting out early for good behavior and having nowhere to go since his ex turned into a raging hippie bitch, he starts shacking up with his sisters who all have character flaws and hangups of their own. Lo and behold, all his sisters end up regretting the day they ever lent a helping hand to their ex-con sibling when he keeps ruining their lives by opening up his big, stupid mouth.
For the sake of starting off on a good foot, what’s not to love about Paul Rudd? Sure, he plays the same role every time and his latest turn as Ned is no exception, but he’s got the “endlessly endearing nice guy” shtick down to a science and I think we could all eat him right up for it. If I saw him in a bar, I’d buy him a drink, and I don’t think it’s crazy to say we’d be best buds from that day forward because that’s just the kind of guy Paul Rudd is. Maybe it’s that signature smile, maybe it’s his sense of humor, but as much as he works as a comedic leading man, Paul Rudd can only carry a crappy script for so long.
There are a number of bummers about this script and the way it plays out, but the most glaring of which is that it’s a one-trick pony that starts out old and is practically in a coffin by the time the end credits roll around. The CliffsNotes version of the script goes like this: “Paul Rudd goes to live with his sister, but then he accidentally says the wrong thing and puts a mirror up to his sister’s flaws. Even though it’s his sister’s fault for not facing the music in the first place, she blames Paul Rudd and kicks him out of her house. Repeat the exact same formula two more times with two more sisters, have everything come to a head, then fix everything with the powers of self-reflection, and throw in a side plot with a dog named Willie Nelson.”
It really is like watching the same short film back-to-back-to-back, and it wouldn’t be so bad if the story had at least some originality going for it the first time around. And on top of all that frustration, you’ve got a misleading title and a surprisingly thin sense of humor. I don’t know about you, but when I hear that there’s a movie coming out called Our Idiot Brother, I start prepping myself for some Three Stooges shit. Then when my preconceived notions are further confirmed by a trailer where Paul Rudd idiotically breaks his nephew’s fingers with a well-place karate kick, it was quite the disappointment when I realized it was all a ruse.
Not to say that the movie isn’t funny, it’s just one of those unfortunate instances where every last laugh is already in the trailer. As much as I’d like to point the finger at the ad campaign for that one, there’s something terribly wrong with your comedy’s script if all your laughs can fit into a two-minute clip reel. Combo that with a story that ended up being way more serious than I think anyone could have expected, and you’ve got yourself a minor mess that could have been worse if I’d had some expectations for this movie. Seriously, the last time I was so thrown by a movie’s title was when I realized everybody was not fine in the highly forgettable and totally un-Christmassy Everybody’s Fine.
But on the bright side, the cast is good and they get it done, regardless of the fact that they’ve all been much, much better. The two exceptions to the rule are a scene where Rudd flips his lid like I never knew he could, and a guy who I didn’t even know existed up until now named T.J. Miller. He plays an organic farmer hippie who makes Rudd’s character Ned look like Gordon Gekko in comparison, he not only does he have the best delivery of the whole cast, but he also has the best lines, all of which sounded ad-libbed. A bit sad considering he only has about 10 lines while everyone else keeps on yappin’, but he sure gets the most out of ’em.
The other thing I that I liked about this movie – borderline loved, even – is Ned’s outlook on life. He tries his best to live by example, he loves everything and everyone unconditionally, and he continually gives others the benefit of the doubt because he believes with every inch of his being that people are innately good. Despite the fact that the writers insist on using all these qualities as a vehicle for the same lame gag or conflict time and time again, Ned is nevertheless a character worth swearing by, a character I totally dig and empathize with when he can shut the hell up.
So if Our Idiot Brother had itself a different title, it could have been a 6, and if it hadn’t regurgitated the same effing storyline three times in a row, it could have been a 7. It is sweet and it is funny in its own ways, but it really astounded me how quickly this movie erased itself from my memory banks, as though the guy at the ticket booth zapped me with Agent K’s neuralizer on the way out. Being the completely unspectacular, mediocre movie that it is, the biggest compliment I can give it on a whole is that it exists and serves a purpose. As to what that particular purpose is? I’m gonna go with some decent life lessons and naming a dog Willie Nelson.