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Review: 'Our Idiot Brother' offers laughs, however scattered and disjointed

By Steve Persall

Times Film Critic

Jeffrey Lebowski's little brother gets his own movie with Our Idiot Brother. Actually, Ned has nothing to do with the Dude, but they have plenty of whatnot in common.

Both are shaggy stoners too nice and accommodating for circumstances surrounding them. Both actually have their woozy heads together better than so-called normal people in their lives. Only one has the comedy material to tie a movie together, and it isn't Ned.

Our Idiot Brother is certainly amusing, but it never accelerates past one-note characters playing out separate personal crises in ways that aren't surprising. The performances are what we'd expect from such a roster of appealing actors. Their situations are underdeveloped since screenwriters David Schisgall and Evgenia Peretz cram at least three movie schemes into a single plot, so none gets its due.

Ned, played with glassy-eyed adorableness by Paul Rudd, is a carefree guy so trusting of the world that he falls for a cop's sob story about needing some marijuana. Ned gets arrested and spends four months in jail, with time off for being the most cooperative prisoner behind bars. Upon his release, Ned learns that his earth mother girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) has dumped him for someone dumber (T.J. Miller) and taken custody of his dog, named Willie Nelson for obvious smoky reasons.

Ned turns to his three sisters for support and places to crash — at least until his predilection for telling the truth without considering consequences gets him kicked out. It's telling that the only person who truly relates to Ned is his 9-year-old nephew, River (Matthew Mindler).

The boy's mother, Liz (Emily Mortimer), is married to documentary filmmaker Dylan (Steve Coogan), who is sleeping with his subject, an exotic ballerina. Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) is a budding magazine writer doing a story on a young socialite with a sordid story she won't talk about. Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) dabbles in bad standup comedy and loves her girlfriend (Rashida Jones), but that doesn't stop her from becoming pregnant by a man.

Ned doesn't have advice for his siblings, at least not in a traditional sense played out on screen (unless you count an outtake during the end credits). People just set their lives straight while other people causing them trouble simply disappear. Our Idiot Brother is an assortment of screwball characters in search of something to do before attaining enlightenment. It's whimsy without substance, in a paper-thin comedy of smiles and nothing more.

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.


Our Idiot Brother

Director: Jesse Peretz

Cast: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Rashida Jones, Adam Scott, T.J. Miller, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Coogan, Shirley Knight, Matthew Mindler

Screenplay: David Schisgall, Evgenia Peretz

Rating: R; profanity, sexual content, nudity, brief drug content

Running time: 90 min.

Grade: B-

Review: 'Our Idiot Brother' offers laughs, however scattered and disjointed 08/24/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 4:30am]
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