Our Idiot Brother (Director: Jesse Peretz): For those of us used to seeing Paul Rudd play the “straight man” in comedies like I Love You, Man and Knocked Up, it’s tantalizing to see him sporting long hair and Crocs in this film, which premiered at Sundance back in January. The Sundance connection is relevant, because the rest of the cast is filled out with Sundance darlings such as Zooey Deschanel, Adam Scott, Elizabeth Banks, and Katie Aselton, not to mention other recognizable stars like Steve Coogan, Emily Mortimer, Rashida Jones and Hugh Dancy. And therein lies the problem. In a film that promises to be about a single idiot, there are a dozen characters fighting for screen time, and it leaves the film a sprawling mess.
Rudd plays Ned, a kind-hearted but rather thick slacker who ends up in jail after selling pot to a uniformed police officer. Upon his release, he learns his vegan farmer girlfriend has taken up with someone else, throwing him out of both house and job. To make matters worse, she is keeping his beloved dog Willie Nelson. After a brief stay with his distracted alcoholic mother, he heads into the city to crash with one of his three sisters. Miranda (Banks) is the uptight career woman, and she doesn’t want him getting in the way of her ambition. Natalie (Deschanel) is the free-spirited and promiscuous one, but she’s trying to settle down to a serious relationship with her girlfriend Cindy (Jones, looking adorably dorky in terrible glasses). So he goes to Liz (Mortimer), who has two kids and a preening documentary filmmaker husband (Coogan). Hijinks invariably ensue, and in no time, Ned has messed up the lives of all three sisters with his clueless attempts at honesty and goodness.
There are undoubtedly some good moments (the banter between Ned and Billy, his girlfriend’s new hippie beau, is hilarious), but for me even the 90 minute runtime felt long. At the same time, it wasn’t long enough to flesh out the many characters and relationships. A few of the subplots could easily have been made into films of their own, although there’s no guarantee they’d be good films, either.