Our Idiot Brother

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Likable Protagonist’s Shoes Filled by Winsome Rudd

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Starring: Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel

Review by Robert Patrick

“Our Idiot Brother” siphons the basic story structures of “What About Bob?” and “You, Me and Dupree” and inoculates them with Judd Apatow-like serums. The wholly likable, dog-eyed Paul Rudd is so sugary that when he smiles the enamel on his teeth could be made of saccharine. I’m not sure there is anybody in Hollywood that is more woozily dopey, innately likable, or drowsily confident than Rudd – and when you slap a beard onto his joyful maw, despite how resistant you think you could be to his goofy charm, the actor becomes so amiable that if judged against a basket full of puppies he would make them look less adorable than a pane of broken glass. The whole shtick is really unfair. You could easily watch the generic, paint-by-numbers, transparent script unfold with a glazed look of disinterest if it weren’t for Rudd’s borderline cloying behavior and instinctive comic timing. Rudd doesn’t have the physical comedic talents of Buster Keaton or even Chris Farley – don’t put me in an iron maiden for putting them in the same sentence – but he doubles just fine for the animated stylings of a young John Ritter.

“Our Idiot Brother” is about an organic produce farmer, Ned (Rudd), and his inability to become, even with all of his good traits, a socially adept member of society. Ned is loopy, good-natured, often clueless and without reservation. He is called, when his friends and family members are most irate, a “manchild” or worse. But the wily, teeth baring naivete of Ned is ultimately adorable if not irritating; he is like a family rabbit that bounces, from room to room, chewing up wires and knocking over vases. This daffy, unoriginal concept was played around with last year with the atrociously unfunny “Dinner for Schmucks” (which Rudd, oddly enough, starred in). That particular film saw Steve Carrell put on the clown shoes that Rudd dons in “Our Idiot Brother,” the difference being that Carrell’s foolhardy, noxious but ultimately good-hearted character was a buzz saw without good lines or screen presence. Rudd actually plays a character whose personality is more unpredictable than a knuckleball – and he makes it work. The screenwriter of  “Our Idiot Brother” needs to thank the heavens for Rudd, too, because this film would go down like the Bismarck without him.

Ned’s family is played by Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer and Elizabeth Banks (the latter, especially with her haircut, a dead-ringer for Parker Posey). The three actresses do a wonderful job, for the most part, with the only hiccups coming from Deschanel’s boppy persona. There are also fun turns by Rashida Jones, Adam Scott and a particularly great T.J. Miller. There are other fine players in the film but I don’t want this review to become a roll call, so I’ll carry on. Basically “Our Idiot Brother” is a serviceable film made waterproof by an amazing cast. There are some pretty great zingers and one-liners tucked into the script, but the movie is more pleasant than overtly hilarious, and there is comfort with that feeling. With vulgar, aimless comedies such as “Hall Pass” dragging their lecherous arms behind them this year, it’s pretty refreshing to see an enjoyable comedy unearth itself this month. Expect Rudd to look like a removed member of the Allman Brothers, flash more smiles than a bucket full of Wal-Mart pins, and make zany expositions and you should be set for a pleasant night at the theater.

3.5 out of 5

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Author: Rob Patrick

A member of the San Diego Film Critics Society, Rob created Cinema Spartan after he stepped down as the editor of a weekly. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. He has also introduced films with the Pacific Arts Movement. He co-owns two dire wolves, Buckley and Ruffin. At any given time, he can tell you superfluous hockey statistics. He is the chancellor of Tapatio, an advocate of iced tea, and an owner of at least 70 pairs of Vans.

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