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Film review: Disown 'Our Idiot Brother'

August 29, 2011|By BOB GARVER | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Paul Rudd stars in "My Idiot Brother"
AP Photo

"Our Idiot Brother" is a movie where you can figure out the ending halfway through the trailer.  

Paul Rudd plays Ned, a dumb burnout who has to crash with his three sisters (Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks and Zooey Deschanel). He inadvertently meddles in their lives and eventually leads them to feel ruined. You can probably guess that by the end of the movie Ned's sisters will see that he has a lot to offer and his meddling will have benefits that they are too narrow-minded to see initially. I'm not guaranteeing that the movie ends like that, but it's how movies like this always end.  

Ned is a hippie who gets arrested after he sells drugs to a uniformed police officer.  It's not that he's too dumb to recognize a police officer, he's just dumb enough to think that the officer won't arrest him.  

Things aren't good for him when he gets out of prison. His girlfriend has a new boyfriend, she's kicking him out of his house, and she's taking his beloved dog. He's forced to move back in with his mother, who loves him unconditionally and tells him he's always welcome to stay with her. There is nothing compelling him to move in with any of his sisters, but he does anyway because the plot requires him to.  

Liz (Mortimer) is married to documentary filmmaker Tyler (Steve Coogan). They have a son who likes the fun-loving Ned, which is what compels them to take him in. They want to get their son into one of those super-competitive private schools and they are horrified when Ned's influence causes him to bring up his love of martial arts in the application interview. To make matters worse, Ned's poor handling of a production van leads to him uncovering an extramarital affair of Tyler's. That's the same as Ned breaking up the marriage, right?

Miranda (Banks) is a reporter grasping to the thread of the relationship she has with Jeremy (Adam Scott). Both she and Jeremy tell Ned secret opinions about the other; he doesn't understand the concept of opinions shared in confidence. Also, Miranda is supposed to get juicy secrets out of a tabloid figure. The subject isn't comfortable talking to her, but she is comfortable confiding in Ned. Miranda tries to exploit these secrets, Ned refuses to swear to their authenticity because he doesn't want to hurt his new friend. That's the same as Ned sabotaging her career, right?  

Natalie (Deschanel) is in a serious relationship with Cindy (Rashida Jones, hiding behind the world's ugliest pair of glasses). One night Natalie has an affair with a male friend and becomes pregnant. You see where I'm going with this. Ned lets it slip to Cindy, it's the same as him breaking up the relationship, right? The difference this time is that I don't see how Ned is saving anybody from a blissful ignorance. Natalie and Cindy would have had to deal with the pregnancy sooner or later.  

Ned is always a player in how the sisters' problems come to light, but he's never really part of the problem. He's just easy to blame because of he's such an idiot.  We're supposed to be surprised that he's more of a scapegoat than a problem-causer.  

The problem is that there's no such thing as a surprise in "Our Idiot Brother." It's too easy to predict how the story will develop at every turn. Tyler leers as the ballerinas he's filming, you can tell it's going to lead to an affair.

Another man is merely in the frame when Ned goes to see his soon-to-be-ex girlfriend, you can tell from the way she looks at him that he's a new boyfriend. Every twist in the story is telegraphed, it's like the movie thinks its viewers are as idiotic as Ned.  


1 1/2 Stars out of Five.


"Our Idiot Brother" is rated R for sexual content including nudity, and for language throughout.  Its running time is 100 minutes.  



Contact Robert Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.  

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