An 'Idiot' you can love

"Our Idiot Brother" is a nicely rendered comedy with smart writing, a sweet premise and an unfortunate title. This is not your end of summer, banal, throwaway comedy.

Instead, it is a surprisingly tender family drama, laced with whimsy and humor, focusing on three sisters, Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), Liz (Emily Mortimer) and their brother Ned (Paul Rudd).

What occurs is entirely unexpected. There is no idiot brother in "Our Idiot Brother." There are three sisters, all dramatically different, and, in their own ways, driven. Miranda, a writer with Vanity Fair, is desperate for a break and willing to cut a few corners; Liz, who is married to effete filmmaker Dylan (Steve Coogan), is obsessively raising her children according to PC values and a private school template that she never questions; and, of course, Natalie, an artist's model and standup comedian living with Cindy ((Rashida Jones), a hip lawyer.

Ned drops into their lives after a brief stint in prison (his crime was an act of charity "… not really smart, but still "… ). He had been living on an organic farm with Janet (Kathyrn Hahn) and his much-loved dog, Willie Nelson. In his absence, Janet has taken custody of the farm, the dog, added a new boyfriend for ballast and refuses to allow Ned to return. And so he's forced to turn to his family in Brooklyn, thus setting in motion a series of familial vignettes that are touching and hilarious.

What becomes clear is that Ned is the quintessential hippie, filled with a trusting goodwill that frames every situation.

What Ned does, completely without malice, is unhinge his sisters, their lives, all in the most good-natured way. They discover that Ned simply can't dissemble — his impulses are to tell the truth and go with the flow. No worries.

But the '60s have drifted into history. Certainly folks such as Ned are still with us, living off good vibrations and positive energy and karmic good will, values buttressed by peace and love; however, as far as Ned is concerned, these are not skill sets easily transferable to Manhattan.

Actually, Ned's cheerfulness makes everyone a bit crazy. Ultimately in a good way. But his attitude is not fashioned from any dimness. Nor is he mentally challenged. It's that he lives in a world free of all guile, absent everyday prevarications. He's simply a really good guy.

Eventually things begin to work out, but not because Ned mirrors his sisters; instead, they come to mirror Ned. It's an entertaining and wonderful transformation. It also makes for a charming and engaging film.

Share This Story