Paul Rudd is a pleasure to watch in anything – OK, maybe not Over Her Dead Body or The Ex or… anyway you see where I’m going. Who doesn’t like Paul Rudd? The Rudd appeal is what makes the otherwise indigestible Our Idiot Brother go down easy. Rudd plays Ned Rochlin, a slacking stoner in cargo shots, ratty Ts, and ugly-ass Crocs. Ned’s not smart. He sells weed to a cop in uniform. But he’s not dumb either. Ned speaks the truth. Not in the holy fool, “I like to watch” manner of Peter Sellers in the immortal Being There – we could only wish – but like a dude who’s basically good at heart. Such behavior doesn’t play in New York, where Ned has just been dumped by his girlfriend (a fun, feisty Kathryn Hahn), an organic farmer who has stolen the only thing Ned truly loves. That would be Willie Nelson. Not the country singer, but Ned’s dog. Cue the cutes. Or don’t, because director Jesse Peretz – yes, the former Lemonheads bassist – deserves credit for not going the cloying route.
Working from a script by his sister, Vanity Fair contributor Evgenia Peretz, and her husband, documentarian David Schisgall, Peretz is on a journey to edgy. Enter Ned’s three sisters. Ned goes to live with each of them, in boring lockstep turn. There’s not a sweetie in the bunch. Liz (Emily Mortimer) is a homebody oblivious to her cheating filmmaker husband (Steve Coogan in full slime). Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) is a VF writer who’d lie, cheat and steal for a scoop. And Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) is an oversexed bisexual with a cruel streak. The delicious Deschanel, Banks and Mortimer don’t deserve the cardboard bitchery the script reduces them to. And we Rudd fans don’t deserve to see our boy reduced at film’s end to a hippy prophet teaching moral lessons to the chic and superficial. Our Idiot Brother comes off as a blueprint for a smart script no one really made. Now that’s what I call dumb.
• Video: Peter Travers Reviews Our Idiot Brother in “At the Movies With Peter Travers”
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