Nerds the world over already realize that dissecting weekend box office grosses is no wise method to restoring faith in humanity, and this weekend was no different. Three new wide-releases did little to rally a lowly turn-out at the box office. However, one of these films deserves our attention.
Distributed by The Weinstein Company, Our Idiot Brother has proven to be one of my summer highlights. If not for anything else, it shows that Paul Rudd has remembered how to be funny (take notes, Michael Cera). It’s been a couple years – three by my count – that Rudd has ventured away from the realm of annoying and into the sphere of comically delightful, which is where we first found him (i.e., Clueless, Wet Hot American Summer, Anchorman, 40 Year Old Virgin).
Our Idiot Brother is the simple tale of a never-do-well who saunters through life with nothing less than good intentions in his heart – sort of like a real-world, patchouli-laden version of Navin Johnson from The Jerk. Here, our man’s name is Ned, and despite his amiable nature and kindness, it seems that he just can’t do a single thing right.
The tone is set in the first few minutes when a police officer approaches Ned to buy pot, claiming that it’s not a sting and that he’s just been having a couple rough days. Ned knows better, but his heart’s too big and he doesn’t see the harm of helping a brother out, albeit, one in uniform. From there we see how Ned’s lack in judgment/goodwill proved detrimental to all around him. Specifically, his adult siblings and their significant others.
Though relatable to real-life, the story itself isn’t dripping with originality. It’s a simple movie about the issues affecting the American family when one member just doesn’t have it all together. We all have them in ours, whether it’s the uncle with a gambling problem, the free-spirited sister, or the father in a midlife crisis.
The crucial element that makes this film worthy of you eight bucks is that it’s Rudd in his natural element – the affable, yet rebellious every-man. He’s down-to-earth (maybe too down-to-earth), funny, and running at a speed four or five notches below those around him. Think back to his character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Now take him off the surfboard, put him in Long Island, and give him a John the Baptist-type makeover.
Rudd playing characters like this is the equivalent of handing Clint Eastwood a six-shooter or throwing Kevin Costner in the batter’s box. It’s simply what he’s meant to play, and thus far in his career, we haven’t grown tired of it.
Of course, a lone performance never constitutes a solid movie and the film’s cast deserves props. Complete with regular Rudd-collaborator, Elizabeth Banks (Wet Hot American Summer, 40 Year Old Virgin, Role Models), an actress so subtly captivating that they named a season after her, Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer), and rounded out by a pair of Park and Recreations cast members (Adam Scott and Rashida Jones), as well as British imports Steve Coogan and Emily Mortimer, the film has too much going for it to be ignored. All of these principles weave together seamlessly to provide a portrait of what family turns into when we all leave the nest – marital strife, sexual second-guessing, and professional anxiety.
That said, I get it. The summer is winding down. Filmgoers have had their fill of aliens, superheroes, and fart jokes and there just doesn’t seem to be another red cent available to put another summer flick in the black. But if you find yourself bored this week with a little extra bread in your pocket, go down to your local cineplex and take my word for it. Our Idiot Brother doesn’t disappoint and surely deserves more attention that a mere RedBox rental on a whim. I give this movie 4 out of 5 Nerdskulls.