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Blu-ray Review: “Our Idiot Brother”

When you sit down to watch Our Idiot Brother, you should know that it isn’t a laugh out loud comedy like the kind of films three out of the four leads have become well know for making. Instead, this indie film allows Paul Rudd (I Love You, Man), Elizabeth Banks (Role Models) and Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) the opportunity to show off some dramatic chops and has a light, understated charm that will keep a constant smile on your face. Along with a wonderful Emily Mortimer as one of the three sisters to which Rudd is the idiot brother, this is one of the finer ensembles to appear on film this year.

Everyman, Rudd, grew his hair long and didn’t shave so that he could fully inhabit the role of Ned, a free spirit, organic farmer whose utmost trust in all people gets him thrown in jail. When a uniformed police office approaches Ned asking to buy some pot, Ned complies because he believes the cop is actually suffering. That’s where the idiot part comes in. Four months later, Ned is released from prison on good behavior and returns to find that his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) has shacked up with another hippie dude (a funny T.J. Miller) and taken custody of their dog, Willie Nelson. Believing that if he raises $500 bucks he’ll be able to move into a goat barn, Ned seeks help from his family.

Ned first goes to live with his mom (Shirley Knight), but quickly realizes that he can’t stay with her. He proceeds to live with each of his three sisters, creating havoc in each home he moves into. Sister Liz is a stay at home mom married to Dylan, a documentary filmmaker (Steve Coogan at his deuchiest). Dylan reluctantly hires his brother-in-law as an assistant, until Ned uncovers a secret Dylan had been keeping from Liz. Next, Ned goes to live with Miranda (Banks), a burgeoning journalist for Vanity Fair. Just as Miranda is about to get her big break, Ned won’t compromise his values to help her out. So, Ned winds up crashing with younger sister, Natalie (Deschanel), a lesbian living with her girlfriend (Rashinda Jones) in big loft. As you would expect, Ned blunders that situation, as well.

Meanwhile, Ned has regular visits with his parole officer (Sterling K. Brown) and continued run-in’s with his ex-girlfriend and the new guy in her life. As the director, Jesse Peretz, described the film in the behind the scenes featurette, Our Idiot Brother is like a road movie, except that the characters never leave New York. Indeed, the film is very episodic, allowing ample time for Rudd to interact with all of the fine actors included in the movie (his scenes with Adam Scott are particularly good).  However, because of the sharpness of the script, written by husband and wife, Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall, and the nice performances by all involved, this setup didn’t bother me.

As I said in the outset, this isn’t a laugh fest like we’ve come to expect from most of these actors, Rudd in particular. There are plenty of funny moments; but overall, Our Idiot Brother is a sweet little film with some real human moments in it, reminding me of some of Hal Ashby’s fine movies. Ned is such an appealing, good man, the kind of honest person we wish the whole world could be like, that it’s impossible not to be won over by his goofiness and naiveté.

The Blu-ray has very minimal special features, deleted scenes and a making of feature. The commentary is insightful and worth checking out.