Review: Our Idiot Brother


Directed by: Jesse Peretz
Written by:David Schisgall, Evgenia Peretz
Starring: Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer, Adam Scott, Steve Coogan
Released: November 3, 2011
Grade: B-

Liz (Mortimer) is a stay-at-home mother who hasn’t had sex with her husband (Coogan) in over a year.  Miranda (Banks) is a wanna-be journalist who can’t seem to find an exclusive story to launch her career.  Natalie (Deschanel) is struggling comedian living in a small New York apartment with 6 other people.

These three sisters all have problems.  They also have, as so appropriately described in the film’s title, an idiot brother named Ned (Rudd).  His stupidity is illustrated in the film’s first scene.  A uniformed police officer comes up to his stall at an open street market and asks if he has any cannabis for sale.  You’d think the alarm bells would be ringing in Ned’s head but not so.  He hands over the weed and is promptly arrested.

On being released from prison, Ned finds himself with nowhere to live.  He was hoping to return to his “hippy” lifestyle at his girlfriend’s biodynamic farm but she’s moved on and found a new guy.  He tries moving back home with his mother but her smothering nature wears thin very quickly.

His sister’s begrudgingly offer Ned a lifeline but that doesn’t go well either.  He moves in with each one of them and in the process, turns their lives into a complete mess.  He’s not doing it deliberately but he has his uncanny knack for causing tension and brining everyone’s problems into the open.  No one wants him.  No one knows what to do with him.

Our Idiot Brother wants to be a quirky comedy but I don’t think it delivers enough laughs.  These characters and situations are all very eccentric but you won’t be laughing heartedly like in a Coen brothers movie.  The writing wasn’t sharp enough and you always have a hunch where the story is heading.  In its defence, the ending isn’t too bad and the film’s message comes through strongly.

The cast are good as opposed to great.  With his sloppy attire, ungroomed beard and lethargic nature, Rudd reminded me of Jeff Bridges’ iconic performance in The Big Lebowski.  The key difference being that Bridges was funny.  Rudd is not.  There’s a strong female presence with Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel and Elizabeth Banks but again, the screenplay doesn’t ask enough from them.

Our Idiot Brother made it in the top 3 of the audience vote at the Melbourne International Film Festival (just ahead of the crowd-pleasing Red Dog) which suggests that it is tickling the funny bone of most filmgoers.  I guess I’m in the minority with this one.  It has its moments but, for the most part, I found it to be flat and disappointing.