With its cast of comedy heavyweights, its rather silly title, and a marketing campaign geared in the wrong direction--"Our Idiot Brother" is a film that may certainly fail to meet the expectations of an audience looking for a rude and ribald laugh riot. And others that would be more likely to appreciate its simpler charms might be wary to sample it due to these preconceived notions. But I have to say--for my money, "Our Idiot Brother" is a refreshingly sweet family dramedy. It has such a big heart and an underlying goodness and faith in humanity that is rare to see. The movie doesn't have lofty goals or aspire to be an important viewing experience, and its lack of pretensions are appreciated. This is simply an entertaining film with a cast sharing great chemistry and gentle humor.
Paul Rudd plays the titular lead, the so-called idiot brother. Rudd, always a strong comedic presence, doesn't get enough credit for being a genuinely terrific actor with unexpected range. Here, his character is so guileless and so genuine that he opts to see only the very best in people. His honesty, innocence, and willingness to really connect with others sometimes gets him into hot water. He seems unwilling or unable to plug into the negative energy stream, and just wants to live free and love. So silly, so sweet, and so surprisingly smart--there are quite a few layers at work here. I think it's a great performance. Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer are Rudd's trio of sisters. Each is navigating a complicated personal crisis and Rudd's return home from prison wreaks havoc on their carefully constructed lives. But is he really the problem? Or might there be a method to his madness?
Part of why I enjoyed "Our Idiot Brother" so much was that it had the potential to be a disaster. To pull off sweet charm without crossing the line into sentimental treacle is a fine balancing act that many films fail to straddle successfully. Here, there is a tartness to all of the performances (and really, you couldn't ask for a better cast) that grounds the relationships believably. Steve Coogan, Adam Scott, Shirley Knight, Rashida Jones, and Hugh Dancy all have noteworthy moments as well. Sweet without being saccharine, quirky without being ridiculous--this simple and straightforward movie was a real delight. And Rudd, in particular, scores big. KGHarris, 11/11.