Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Our Idiot Brother

The familiar and welcoming coincide nicely with Our Idiot Brother, an ensemble comedy that's easily digestible as it cloyingly obvious.  Filmed in absolute TV-readiness, but with an assured and engaging ensemble of actors, the overly retreaded feels at times, almost refreshing.  For this is yet another in the long familiar canon of dysfunctional quirky family comedies that's meant to tug at the heart and at the funny bones of any and all.  What the film has going for it in strides is the gamesmanship of a group of actors that through some sort of alchemy or bribery or whatever the case makes the cliches upon cliches that pile up not feel so.  Directed by Jesse Peretz (The Ex and The Chateau, an improvisational comedy starring the titular brother, Paul Rudd) creates such a relaxed environment, likely not only for his actors, but for his audience as well that it feels hard pressed to judge to harshly on the films deficits.  The humor comes easy, but not exactly trailer\marketing-ready-- there's laughs, but in the subtle, easy going, nonchalant variety, rather than gang-busting guffaw.  For Our Idiot Brother centers around a not so bright guy named Ned, a super-chill dude, sweet, mellow and honest (to a fault), played with not a care in the world and with intelligent ease by Paul Rudd.

A farmer specializing in organic vegetables, Ned gets in a humorous run in with law, after he sells an officer (in uniform) some pot...he was coaxed and he's amiable...he's just a chill dude after all.  The aftermath turns into a Job-like follow-up of endless disappointments when Ned is released into the care of his family and traded off to live with his three sisters.  The sitcom-ready premise is set when we meet his family-- there's Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), the Vanity Fair journalist whose all career and bent on more serious stories, Liz (Emily Mortimer), the frigid, stay-at-home mother whose so bent on getting her children to sturdier foundations that she's ignored the fray it's causing them and her unstable marriage, and Natalie (Zooey Deshanel), a free-spirited lesbian with secrets of her own.  As the burden of Ned is handed off from one family member to the next, each of the his sisters, and their secretly unhappy lives become more and more unraveled, thanks to his buffoonery and simple-minded kindness.

And while flaky and utterly sitcom-ready (I kept waiting for the laugh track), there's little to argue with the small, twinkly charms of Rudd and company, who through either happenstance or what, make Our Idiot Brother a nice and breezy aside.  For Rudd, with Jesus hair, and hippie stance is such a peaceful and seemingly low-key film hero, his appearance is almost silly and daffy enough to keep the whole thing afloat.  It's just icing on the cake that his sisters are played by such warm, welcoming and funny women that have the same knack for making the overly familiar seem new and energized.  Added icing is an ace supporting cast that includes Adam Scott (Parks & Recreation) as Miranda's would-be suitor, Steve Coogan as Liz's obnoxious documentarian husband, Hugh Dancy as a flaky new-age artist and Julie White as a cult leader.  B

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