Paul Rudd, Our Idiot Brother


Review in a Hurry: Ned just got busted for selling weed to a cop (What an idiot!), so he now must rely on the unkindness of his three self-centered siblings to survive. Paul Rudd is the dim-bulb bro to sisters Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and Liz (Emily Mortimer) in this sweet—if slight—comedy. The hippie jokes are as obvious as Ned's shaggy beard, but that's OK since this story about a painfully nice guy mostly works.

The Bigger Picture: Ned (Rudd) is an unemployed, newly paroled West Coast hippie, but you won't hate him. And the big reason why is Rudd. He's played a nice guy in films for so long that he seems like the only choice to play someone so clueless and yet so charming.

But apparently that charm can get tiring, if you're related to him…

The casting of the three sisters is like shorthand for the actresses' bios. Deschanel, the resident hipster queen portrays a quirky, sexually adventurous gal. Banks doing a riff on her 30 Rock overachiever equals career woman. And Mortimer (Match Point), the most classically trained thesp, gets saddled with the story arc that requires the most heavy lifting: a mom with a cheating husband.

While Ned's outlook may feel ideal: owning a dog named Willie Nelson, always up for some mixed martial arts with his nephew—his casual lifestyle and naïve attitudes can make for unexpected (and hilarious!) tensions. Ned's open-book attitude is great in some situations, but in others it just means he's got a big mouth. Surely, if Ned catches his sister Liz's spouse (a grouchy Steve Coogan) naked with another woman, Ned should know what's up, right? And if Natalie gets knocked up by a guy, Ned shouldn't assume her longtime girlfriend (Rashida Jones) would understand. But once Ned starts talking he can't stop, so like some unwanted foster kid, he gets shuffled from home to home, with each sibling only able to tolerate him for a short time.

In a more dramatic version, Ned might be seen as a passive-aggressive tool, but Rudd completely sells the earnest thing. Plus, while all this could seem super dramatic for his siblings, nothing ever feels that dire. There are good vibes aplenty when Ned hangs out with his sisters' friends and Adam Scott (Parks & Recreations) who plays Miranda's will-they-or-won't-they neighbor is a treat.

Written and directed by Jesse Peretz, there's a leisurely feel to the story. Much of Ned's endless good-guy vibe gives the comedy a feeling that's more smile-inducing than laugh-out-loud funny. On the downside, there's never any attempt to understand why exactly Ned is such an optimistic guy. Apparently, this dude just abides.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Kathryn Hahn (How Do You Know) as a villainess free-love gal who steals Ned's dog grates more than entertains and feels unnecessary.

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