The actual movie is not so continuously happy-go-lucky quirky. It spends a good percent of its time in turbulent emotions.
Director: Jesse Peretz
Ned, the idiot brother: Paul Rudd
Sister 1: Elizabeth Banks
Sister 2: Zooey Deschanel
Sister 3: Emily Mortimer
Hippy 1: Kathryn Hanh
Hippy 2: T.J. Miller
Brother in Law: Steve Coogan
Sister 2's GF: Rashida Jones
Other Guy: Adam Scott
Nephew: Matthew Mindler
The Forgotten Mom: Shirley Knight
The movie has funny people in it. Paul Rudd is in comedies. Elizabeth Banks is in comedies. Zooey Deschanel is known for her deadpan roles, and deadpan is funny (to me). T.J. Miller is a comedian. Rashida Jones is on the comedy show Parks & Recreation, as is Adam Scott. So yes, it's going to have funny moments.
But the plot itself is not focused on setting up laughs and maximizing hilarity. There's an actual drama being told. And not in the Apatowian, The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up sense where there's serious emotions driving the comedy forward.
Really, Our Idiot Brother is a story that explores honesty. Ned (Rudd) is honest to a fault. The first scene in the movie demonstrates this, ends with Ned going to jail. When he is released three years later, he has no money, no prospects and, so, lives at home.
What unfolds is Ned's odyssey from his mom's house to staying with each of his sisters. At each house, he discovers truths that his siblings don't want to recognize, that they would rather keep under a rug and avoid. If people are ignoring the elephant in the room, Ned's the guy that goes "Hey! Does everyone know there's an elephant here?! This is awesome!"
Liz (Mortimer) kicks Ned out after he points out her husband is cheating on her.
Ned goes to Miranda (Banks). Miranda kicks Ned out after he blows her big deal story.
Ned goes to Natalie (Deschanel). Natalie kicks Ned out after he tells Cindy (Jones) that Natalie cheated on her.
Then we have the climax and denouement.
Ned frustrates the sisters by forcing them to confront the problems in their lives. There are consequences and drama and the movie takes on serious tones.
There was one point, maybe 75% in, where I was like, "This movie isn't funny at all, this is sad." Then something happened and I laughed and was like, yeah, okay, this is funny.
But I don't think it has mainstream comedic appeal. Survey 1,000 people and they'll probably say they thought Horrible Bosses was funnier and that's probably right. But...Horrible Bosses is a comedy and this is a dramedy.
As I said, the theme explores honesty. Ned is someone that reaps what he sows, good and bad. His problem is that he doesn't always think ahead. He doesn't always see the consequences of his actions because he likes to believe good things will happen. The tension in the movie is that you have this entity interacting with people that don't want to face the reality of what's going on. In other words: they don't want to reap--what they've sown is no good and they know it. Or, they have potatoes and corn and green beans but want ambrosia and won't accept anything else. Ned forces them to the field and they resent him for it. The point the movie then makes is that it's better to collect your harvest, good or bad, because, if you don't, you won't be able to plant anything for the next season. You won't be able to move on. If you don't want to deal with bad consequences, be thoughtful about what you seed. (What's interesting to me is the dynamic played out in the first interaction between the cop and Ned. The cop is lying. Ted is being honest. This conflict will continue for the rest of the film.)
Did I like it:
I didn't, but it's grown on me. In the middle of the movie I thought "twenty years from now, who will ever watch this movie?" But once I understood what was going on thematically, I appreciated the film. I like the cast. I liked seeing Rashida Jones be a lesbian lawyer. I liked Ned's odyssey through the family.
This is another movie reviewers don't understand. And that's probably because the thematic point is never vocalized (same with Bad Teacher). We've become very passive as viewers and readers and constantly want the story to explain everything for us. What makes Our Idiot Brother special is not explained, you have to recognize it. And that's asking a lot of some people. (You will have no such problems because you were smart and read my review, so you know what's up. Spread the word.).
The acting is top notch. I thought everyone brought their A-game.
The saddest part of the movie, to me, is the alcoholic mother that the movie never interacts with. We only have a couple segments with her, and she's tragic and unredeemed.
I had problems with the "redemption" where they all band together at the end to help Ned. Ned had made them all so mad, the transition from anger to "He's our brother!" was too sudden. But, then I figured all he had really done was call them out on their own shit. You can't really blame the guy for not helping you avoid situations you got yourself in to. So I ended up being okay with it.
I would give the movie a 4/5.
I think Midnight in Paris is sort of similar to Our Idiot Brother. It astounds me that critics could find one so endearing and the other a failure. Midnight is a smaller movie; Brother attempts way more. Which makes Midnight like a well-crafted short story and Brother like a novelette. Which is weird seeing that Midnight is four minutes longer than Brother. But Midnight's plot is less dynamic than Brother's. Midnight oscillates between 2010 and the 1920s until finally changing the system with 1890. Brother goes from Ned On His Own, to Back Home, to Janet's, to Liz's, to Miranda's, to Natalie's, to Ned On His Own (sort of).
What It's Good For:
-the actors involved
-I think the theme is worthwhile
-it does have funny moments
-fits its running time
-I like the structure
-the theme demands active viewing to appreciate, so some people will miss it
-marketed as a comedy
-some parts bored me
-neglects to address the mother
%Character / %Actor's personality
Adam Scott: I have no idea
Hypertext:-Bohemian films: Ten Inch Hero; Taking Woodstock; Across the Universe; Hair; Austin Powers; Alice's Restaurant-Rudd being alternative: Forgetting Sarah Marshall-From place-to-place-to-place narratives: O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Hero; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button-Active viewing: The Tree of Life; No Country for Old Men; There Will Be Blood