Rudd’s good-hearted, biodynamic farmer Ned is beset by bad luck. Ned loves others to a fault. Is he really an idiot? Yes and no.
Rudd plays a genial hippie lacking in social judgment. He’s so naïve that he sells pot to a uniformed police officer at the Farmer’s Market one day.
After he is thrown out by his girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn), Ned travels to Brooklyn to crash with his three sisters.
Elizabeth Banks (Avery Jessup in 30 Rock) plays Miranda, an ambitious reporter at Vanity Fair. Miranda insists that being an adult means lying and taking advantage of others. The innocent brother can’t relate.
Liz (Emily Mortimer) is a mousy, tired wife and mom. She’s unaware of the shenanigans of her film director husband Dylan (Steve Coogan). Ned puts two and two together and spills the beans.
Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) is a club performer who reaches a turning point. Natalie withholds information from her lover Cindy (pep-talking Rashida Jones), and this threatens their relationship. Meanwhile Cindy, who’s a lawyer, helps Ned with his legal problems.
Ned reveals secrets
Ned drives his sisters nuts by spilling their personal secrets. This turns their lives upside down. It’s not that he wants to hurt anyone. He just can’t conceive of a world where people hide things from one another.
Unfortunately, neither Peretz nor the script coax much depth from the sisters. Pushy Miranda, overwhelmed Liz and flighty Natalie remain one-dimensional.
Finally, Ned’s mom (Shirley Knight, wonderful here) is the one who opens her home to him unconditionally. Mournfully, he accepts.
Custody of the dog
Janet’s breakup with Ned is tough love. Living a back-to-the-land lifestyle, she’s a sermonizing spitfire. Ned is heart-broken when she insists on keeping Willie Nelson, his golden retriever and best friend.
The born-again optimist is unable to match cynical, mean vibes. Ned loses it during a game of charades with his disillusioned siblings. The scene shows how hard it is for him to be in the world.
Pure of heart
Trying a new age solution, Ned meets a know-it-all teacher and passes out in a sweat lodge called “The Win Tent.” Although he often seems to fail, the idiot brother occasionally enchants those he meets.
Ned is happiest playing with his 7-year-old nephew River (Matthew Mindler). Liz and Dylan enroll River in dance classes, hell-bent on grooming him for admission to an elite school. What the boy really loves is learning Tae Kwon Do from his uncle and watching Pink Panther past his bed time.
Sweet oddball makes impression
Like Ed Helms in Cedar Rapids, Rudd gives a standout performance as an oddball character. As he shakes things up, lives are transformed and healed.
Rudd’s raunchiest moment is when Ned tentatively accepts a three-way with an amorous couple. He can’t go through with it.
British comedian Coogan is brilliant as Liz’s wayward hubby. His arse-backwards nude scene is terrific.
The smart, funny script was written by Evgenia Peretz (the director’s sister) and her partner Anthony Bregman. Dog lovers will appreciate a silly but positive conclusion. (4 out of 5 stars)
If you like Our Idiot Brother, you might enjoy: Cedar Rapids.
Our Idiot Brother 2011 / R / 1 hour, 30 min
Cast Overview: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dancy, Kathryn Hahn, Rashida Jones, Shirley Knight, T.J. Miller, Matthew Mindler
Director: Jesse Peretz