By Kristen Cloyed, Entertainment Editor
After a warm welcome at the Sundance Film Festival in January, “Our Idiot Brother” hit big screens across the country for the first time last Friday. But be warned, this is not your usual Paul Rudd comedy.
“Our Idiot Brother” is witty, but with a melancholy undertone. Rudd plays Ned, a laid-back organic farmer just released from jail after selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer. Ned returns home to find his girlfriend living with another man, leaving him with no choice but to impose his company on his family.
Ned may be the idiot of the family, but compared to his three jaded sisters, he seems to have life figured out.
Liz (Emily Mortimer) is a mother of two, married to an insufferable documentary filmmaker, played by Steve Coogan. Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) is a bossy, ruthless Vanity Fair reporter who has a crush on her neighbor. Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) is a bisexual stand-up comic whose relationship is on the rocks.
Ned hops from house to house, throwing each of his sisters’ lives into chaos. Through the mess and mayhem, Ned keeps his spirits high, and his defining moment comes when he brings his secret to life.
“I like to think that if you put your trust out there,” he says, “if you really give people the benefit of the doubt and see their best intentions, people will rise to the occasion.” His positive outlook and love for life is exactly what his sisters need to regain control over their own lives.
Directed by Jesse Peretz, “Our Idiot Brother” has real-life inspirations. The film is written by Peretz’s sister, Evgenia, a journalist for Vanity Fair, and her husband, documentary filmmaker David Schisgall.
The writing is refreshing, but it’s Rudd who really makes this movie work. With all of Ned’s quirks, few other actors could pull it off. But Rudd’s charm and charisma make him impossible to write off. Without him, “Our Idiot Brother” wouldn’t stack up.
The cast is captivating, but there’s one character who stands out despite having a small role. Rashida Jones, who plays Deschanel’s love interest, Cindy, lights up the screen. Her comedy is enchanting even in giant glasses, plaid shirts and Bermuda shorts.
This comedy is a stretch from Rudd’s usual goofball humor. “Our Idiot Brother” could be a turning point in his career, leaving everyone wondering what’s next for the versatile actor. Comedy may be Rudd’s best genre, but it’s nice to see him in a more challenging role.